Lexington, KY – In a recent interview with Rebecca Ryan on his KET show One to One, host Bill Goodman alluded to a Mark Twain quote – – something about wanting to be in Kentucky on judgement day, because it’s always 20 years behind the times.
While the quote is said to actually refer to Cincinnati (and some question whether Twain said it at all), the perception came as no terrible surprise to Ryan, author of “Live First, Work Second: Getting Inside the Minds of the Next Generation” and founder of Next Generation Consulting. As a keynote speaker at November’s Beyond Boundaries Summit, during which leaders and employers from 26 contiguous counties in Kentucky and southern Indiana convened to discuss strategies in regional competitiveness, Ryan heard a Kentuckian say “In the future, jobs will follow the talent.”
“In the future?” she whispered. “This has been happening for 10 years.”
Ryan’s book and her research as a consultant on generational differences reaffirm a notion that has been a recent focus for downtown Lexington: that the up-and-coming generation of young talent first decides where they want to live, then they seek a job.
If these findings are as true as they are compelling, the pressure is on, Lexington. Between 2012-2014, up to 1,600 (out of a total of 7,000) employees at Georgetown’s Toyota plant – one of the area’s largest employers – will be qualified for or seriously considering retirement, said Toyota spokesperson Rick Hesterberg. And according to Ryan’s research, along with findings presented at the November Urban-County Council work session by representatives of the area’s largest employers (including Toyota and Lexmark – see Janet Holloway’s article in this issue), the amenities our city can offer to encourage young people to move and stay here go beyond providing jobs for them.
In the past, Ryan said on KET, the economic strength of a community was thought to be about jobs, taxes and real estate – a line of thinking that does not resonate with the next generation. While the baby boomers “really hung their hat of identity on their work,” she continued, the next generation is as concerned – if not more – with their life outside of work. In Live First, Work Second, she outlines seven indexes that make a city more viable for 20-to 35-year-olds, a list that includes cost of living, social capital and “after hours” options.
In the eyes of many Lexington city leaders, bar owners, and members of the very class that Lexmark, Toyota, and the University of Kentucky want to attract, there is some concern about Lexington’s ability to compete on certain levels as a destination city (see Parting Thoughts, page 31, for a sampling of thoughts and comments on the subject). Particular attention has focused recently on downtown entertainment.
“It’s not so much that we’re sitting on a problem right today, but we’re sitting on a ticking bomb,” said Renee Jackson, president of the Downtown Lexington Corporation. “If we don’t do something today, in 10 years, there’s going to be a big problem.”