Good afternoon. I am just one of about 40 other executives in Grand Rapids who have helped develop and now lead a very informal group called What’s Next. While this group of business leaders discusses everything we will share at this conference – we have chosen to focus our time on the need to recruit and retain talent, and specifically HOW something like PLACE matters in the attraction and retention of talent.
To us - talent IS our future.
TALENT MATTERS - Growth markets are national hubs for young, college-educated residents. A concentration of talent is the key to economic growth. New jobs require ongoing learning, knowledge economy… TALENT chooses where to live first – PLACE is critical.
Like any business problem, we studied HOW to best solve the problem. We looked at how the best cities were attracting talent and we knew we needed to totally understand the key customer: The Millennial Generation.
What’s next is not formal. It is a group of CEOs who share all our information with our city leaders. We invest as a public-private partnership to create a new understanding, to share what we learn and most of all to stimulate change. It started with three CEOs and grew to more than 40. We call ourselves What’s Next. We are NOT a 501-C anything, we simply learn together, discuss the need for change and pass the hat.
We quickly began to learn together and became comfortable with the idea – that FAILURE is good. We had to TRY new things.
The idea that PLACE mattered became a cause for all of us. We began with the idea that walkability and streetscaping made people feel more comfortable. It helped us connect the assets in the city that we had.
Place mattered in a number of different ways.
We developed core, guiding principles: We believe in the vitality and vibrancy of the city. We gave permission to NOT say no – everyone in the city is an ambassador. The method was simply a matter of identifying a component to design and activate it. We believe in the business role to be in partnership – enact “business philanthropy” – provide time, resources and treasures/financial support – to drive the change in U.S. cities. We believe in taking lessons we have learned in Grand Rapids to wider areas like Detroit, etc.
And by the way – like any good business person – we learned to understand this core customer. They are a high number of educated 24 to 38-year-olds. Estimated at 72 Million born between 1977-1996. Less than 25% will marry before they are 40. Entrepreneurial in nature. They want to walk vs. drive. Text vs. talk. Stream vs. TV. City vs. suburb. Rent vs. own. (source: Zimmerman Volk Associates)
What does this all mean? It’s simple. In Grand Rapids – Talent Matters. Our primary target audience is the Millennial Generation. They decide where they want to live, then find a job second. And, companies want to locate where talent is. Vibrant, growing cities need a Millennial population of 28-30% (Grand Rapids has 24%; Detroit has 12%). Cities that work and are primed to attract and retain talent are … >growing and >offering cultural experiences and healthy, urban cores where people live, work, walk and play
What do we mean by place matters? Cities that work have downtowns that are inviting, accessible, affordable, diverse. Their downtowns offer unique clusterings of “working” people to allow networking, innovation, engagement. Successful urban cores allow for ongoing “happy accidents.”
WALKABILITY is key: Give individuals a REASON to walk (balance of uses). Make is SAFE to walk (reality and perception). Provide a COMFORTABLE walk (space and orientation). Provide an INTERESTING walk (signs of humanity).
Green leadership is important. We can’t just say it, we have to do it and illuminate what we do: Creation of interesting spots Investment in sustainability Balanced transportation
NIGHTLIFE is also key. We had a great set of buildings, but we needed to invest in activating the spaces at different times, for different things. We had to learn to invest in what THEY like!
Invest in making possible the special offerings like: Culture & Cocktails – Series of Grand Rapids’ arts and cultural events through which the young talent could try the city’s culture and meet others at an affordable cost. Hockey Night – Group of 20 business leaders purchased Wednesday night hockey tickets and gave them to not-for-profit workers at schools, hospitals and the police and fire departments, so they too could “taste” the fun of the city.
Most important – we had to invite their ideas and begin to accept the change in culture that THEY wanted. CHANGING CULTURE is NOW visibly welcome in Grand Rapids. And, the events vary.
Outdoors Movie Night – Hundreds gather to enjoy movie watching at the city’s center at night. On Tuesdays swing dancing lessons are a fun find.
Like many other cities we also work to strengthen the current programs like: Summer Friday nights of free live music, games and activities, Zumba/ballroom dancing and outdoor sketching. And, Style Battles where fashion competes like no other. Participants included retailers, photographers, hairstylists, make-up artists and models.
We have learned to accept music of all kinds at all hours. Our city leadership has learned to shut down streets faster, break rules to allow more art, but balance the energy.
And while the Millennials group is the primary target audience, we are not forgetting the baby boomers, many who are empty nesters wanting to re-engage with their city.
We have learned that it is NOT about more buildings but about programs throughout the city that make a city work. AND – we can’t just invest in our ideas.
We must invest in their ideas.
ArtPrize – is just one brilliant example. Started in 2009 and in its third year to reboot the conversation about art among EVERYONE. ArtPrize attracts more than 400,000 visitors during the 19-day competition offering the world’s largest art prize of $250,000. By the way – did I mention that our What’s Next Group of CEOs leans on a focus group of more than 50 young Millennial professionals to share their thoughts, stimulate ideas and participate as we make our city healthier?
Laughfest – a 10-day March festival of all things funny. More than 55,000 people engaged in 228 funny events throughout 49 downtown locations.
TEDx-Grand Rapids – Held for the first time in 2011, and the 2012 event is planned for May.
Besides programming, we needed to change the way we think of work. We had to encourage clustering of creative thinkers wherever possible.
One of our most nationally recognized projects is called the GRID. GRid70 is a design hub, or nest. It is real jobs – the futures departments of local companies sharing space in one downtown building. This fall the Illinois Institute will begin to offer it’s Masters in Design Methods at the GRid.
Our newest project is a retail incubator, MoDiv . A partnership with our DDA, local business and some philanthropy to open a large, vacant first-floor space. The idea is to use 21 st century design to create see-through spaces for a mix of start-ups and established retailers to try a very inexpensive, downtown setting.
5x5 – A mini-granting program. The winner uses award to act on innovative idea. 5 ideas, 5 minutes, 5 slides, 5 judges, 5 thousand bucks
Mentoring is also key. Youth wants to engage, they want to grow, they need our help to pass the baton if we want our cities to succeed.
And if you hang around Grand Rapids long enough – you will start to ask … WHAT’S NEXT? Anyone can ask. But…everyone must engage if our city is going to be successful.
Creating vision and offering support toward progress requires more than a village – it requires an entire city and then some. These are just some of the partners who’ve been instrumental and generous in giving of their time, resources and financial support – all in the interest of coming together to realize the vision and making real - WHAT’S NEXT for Grand Rapids.
Grand Rapids: Place = Talent Retention & Attraction
<ul><li>The most valuable resource of the 21 st century is: BRAINS. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Research </li></ul><ul><li>Engage millennials </li></ul><ul><li>Review best practices in other cities </li></ul><ul><li>Share local vision </li></ul><ul><li>Share investment </li></ul><ul><li>Seek employer collaboration </li></ul>CEO process: Understand how a strong, diverse urban setting can help attract & retain talent.
Grand Rapids What’s Next … <ul><li>Business joined CEOs for Cities as a city cluster. </li></ul><ul><li>Business pays for Mayor, City Commission, City Manager, </li></ul><ul><li>City Planner, Downtown Development Authority to attend </li></ul><ul><li>CEOs for Cities. </li></ul><ul><li>Business pays to bring in experts to share knowledge and </li></ul><ul><li>help to create conversation: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Roger Martin (Design Thinking) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Jeff Speck (Walkability) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Kevin Colleran (Facebook) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Clay Shirkey (Impact of Social Connections) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Talent = Economic stability and growth. </li></ul>
First priority: Talent chooses where they want to live.
<ul><li>Place matters: </li></ul><ul><li>- Culture </li></ul><ul><li>- Feel of a city </li></ul><ul><li>- Walkability </li></ul><ul><li>- Green attitude </li></ul><ul><li>- Live/work/play </li></ul><ul><li>- Vibe </li></ul><ul><li>- Reputation </li></ul>
Grand Rapids: Guiding Principles <ul><li>City must have a vibrant urban core. </li></ul><ul><li>Programming is more important than buildings. </li></ul><ul><li>Youth must be engaged, empowered. </li></ul><ul><li>Everyone in the city is an ambassador. </li></ul><ul><li>Little things matter. </li></ul><ul><li>We are NOT afraid to fail. </li></ul><ul><li>Philanthropy can help drive change. </li></ul>
Understanding what THEY need… The MILLENNIALS: - 72 million educated 24-38 year-olds - Thinks green - Seeks diversity - Mostly single - Mobile
Encourage: - Attainable housing - Diverse lifestyles - Flexible work environments - New, different building uses Madcap Coffee House 38 Commerce Apartments
Changed thinking: Walkability: - City streets NOW have a walk score of 54. - 21% Neighborhoods have a walk score of 70 or above. Bike Lanes: Grand Rapids NOW - has more than 125 miles of trails in and around the city. - has added downtown bike lanes. - is working to connect an entire system.
Celebrate innovation: Recognized Green Leader: - Grand Rapids is home to: ~ more than 120 LEED- certified buildings. ~ first LEED-certified art museum in the world. - City has earned United Nations sustainability award. - City is investing in rapid transit.
Business and philanthropy must invest in “What they like…” Nightlife: - Public-private investments working side-by-side - The Arena District - Top 20 arena entertainment venues in North America. <ul><li>Vibe </li></ul>
Invest in ways they can meet: - Culture and Cocktails - Hockey Night
Accept change and “their” culture: Grand Rapids World Records: - Zombie Walk - National Pillow Fight
Changing Culture: - Outdoor Movie Nights - Tuesday Night Dances - Chalk Festivals
Diverse Experiences Matter: - GRAM on the Green - Style Battle - Blues on the Mall
What they like… Diverse Experiences: - Artwalks - Rock the Rapids
Not JUST Millennials. Balance Programming Between the Ages: - Diana: A celebration targeted women 45-65 years old and attracted more than 90,000 women to the art museum.
Stage major events in new spaces: New Year’s On The Grand