BY SHARON HILLSTROM
They are 18 to 34 years old, and they are a force to be reckoned with. This week, they are convening in Manatee County at the second MCon Millennial Conference to support leadership development and address topics such as housing, financial stability, entrepreneurship, and how to take ownership in the community.
MCon is just one example from a host of initiatives forged in the Bradenton area to ensure that our community is welcoming to the talent, contributions and leadership of the millennial generation. This age group will step into roles being vacated by Baby Boomers, from consumer buying power to workforce to community leadership.
While communities nationwide struggle with how to help this generation succeed in these roles, organizations in the Bradenton area are already working together to make it happen.
A collective impact team meets monthly so that four agencies can best coordinate their individual and collective work with millennials to make the Bradenton area a welcoming place for millennials to live, work and play. Those groups are Realize Bradenton, the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, Manatee County Government, and the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corp. (EDC).
The MCon conference is the creation of the Manatee Millennial Movement group, or M3, of Manatee County Government. With more than 40 members, the group of Manatee County employees takes on significant projects with policy and placemaking impact. M3 was successful in initiating a land development code change that increased the density and intensity for multi-family housing on five urban corridors. The change is designed to improve housing affordability.
The Thought Leaders Group of the Bradenton Area EDC created 941NOW on Facebook and Instagram as a communication method to inform and engage millennials in social events and happenings in Manatee and Sarasota counties. Within one year of launch, 941NOW grew to 1,000 followers on each social media platform and a monthly reach of approximately 4,000 on Facebook.
Begun in 2000, the Manatee Young Professionals (MYP) of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce is Tampa Bay’s longest-running young professional organization. Its 500 members, including 100 college students, benefit from business and social networking, community involvement, professional and personal development, and more. MYP hosts several events each month designed to help local young professionals connect with each other and with our community.
Realize Bradenton is a nonprofit organization that works to connect people, promote downtown Bradenton, develop places and foster economic growth. The Realize Bradenton “Pop-Ups” team has secured two national grants totaling $150,000 to attract and retain millennial talent in the Bradenton area.
Out of 7,160 ideas submitted for a Knight Cities Challenge Award, “Pop-Ups for a Purpose” was one of 32 selected nationwide. The Pop-Ups initiative was designed for millennials by millennials. More than 600 diverse people from the under-35 crowd came together via events and public art to connect with each other and make a positive impact as emerging leaders.
“How to Run for Office,” a project designed to equip millennials to run for public office, is a finalist in the current Knight Cities Challenge. Proposed by Stephen Boyes of Bradenton, the project moves to the next stage of being considered for funding. An announcement is due from the Knight Foundation this spring.
The younger generation tells us they want to live and work where they can also play, and that means enjoying live music and a vibrant nightlife. To foster a more dynamic entertainment district in Bradenton’s downtown, the City of Bradenton is revising its noise ordinance with input from millennials and Chamber of Commerce members.
So, if you’re wondering whether the Bradenton area community supports millennials, the answer is a resounding “yes”!
We don’t pretend to have all the answers for attracting and retaining young talent, but we are making strides in the right direction. We’re doing that as we have done so successfully for other community concerns that shape the quality of life in Manatee County: by working together.