TAMPA — Hillsborough County leads the state in its share of millennial residents, with the so-called "Digital Generation" — ages 20 to 40 — making up 29 percent of the population.
Fortune magazine ranks Tampa as one of the 25 "hottest cities" for startups, and Tampa topped Realtor.com's national ranking of cities where people are moving.
The data points to Tampa as a city on the rise for millennials.
"Everyone is curious, 'Why is Tampa such a hot spot? What's really going on?'" said Andrew Machota, 36, founder of New Town Connections, a social club for young professionals.
Plans by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik to remake the Channelside area waterfront into a 53-acre work-live-play district is one lure. Over the next 10 years, 5,000 new homes are projected, along with retail shops, offices, hotels, academic centers and entertainment venues.
Seeking to build on a potential reciprocal relationship led Machota and Tampa entrepreneur Roberto Torres to co-sponsor the Millennial Impact Forum Tuesday at Amalie Arena, featuring Vinik as keynote speaker.
A panel of entrepreneurs and government and civic leaders will join Vinik, touching on issues from transportation and technology to crime and social responsibility. Doors open at 5 p.m. and the forum begins at 6 p.m. Tickets are $39 until Friday, then $49.
"We have carefully curated a panel with an X-factor, meaning they are making an impact in other areas of civic or community engagement outside their 9 to 5 job," said Torres, 38, co-founder and president of the Blind Tiger Cafe, CoWork Ybor and Black and Denim Apparel Co.
"We hope to have a serious open conversation about the challenges of both generations — millennials and baby boomers."
Torres is president of StandUp Tampa, a Tampa-Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. initiative promoting the bay area to young professionals as the ideal place to start a business or further a career. Torres will moderate the forum.
The takeaway, Machota said, "should be for them to leave and actually do something proactive in the community. We all love living here, but a lot of millennials have a negative, disengaged stereotype. The goal is to be inspired by a panel of people who have stepped up and are doing phenomenal things."
Millennial feedback is crucial, Torres added, "because they are the ones who are going to use the amenities for the next 30 to 50 years." He likened their impact to dropping a rock in still water and creating a ripple effect.
"Maybe they've been treading water here for the last five years, but hang on, more things are coming, we are listening to you," said Torres. Retaining this demographic, he said, is as important as attracting it.
"Without millennials, his (Vinik's) vision doesn't get fulfilled," said Machota. He expects attendance of more than 500 at the forum, and not only millennials.
"Anyone interested and invested in helping Tampa become a mecca of opportunity should come," he said.
"Look at me, I'm from Rolling Prairie, Indiana, population 500, co-hosting this forum. I'm a testament that anyone can move here from anywhere and start a business."
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