This week’s latest accolade from Business Insider rating Owensboro as one of the top communities for millennials was a welcomed honor. We are usually too busy to pause and celebrate those accolades, but a Courier-Journal online article expressed surprise that Owensboro made the list. So, we figured we have some explaining to do.
Our momentum in millennial home ownership can be attributed to several factors including a community with proactive, community-minding banking institutions and affordable quality housing and walkable neighborhoods. It can also be attributed to our community’s intentional focus on creating infrastructure to attract and retain young people.
One of the strategic goals in the Chamber’s Plan of Work is to develop and connect leaders for the future of Greater Owensboro. We do this in many different ways including our Leadership Owensboro program, Chamber Young Professionals, our Chamber Internship Program, our partnership with the Business Education Alliance and the 40 Under 40 group. Our local government and economic development leaders embarked upon a downtown placemaking strategy that was developed and financed with the future in mind. To date, over $400 million investment of public and private dollars have transformed our downtown and new projects are being announced weekly.
Communities across the country that are growing strong economic bases are the ones who understand the importance of our younger generations. Our economy continues to evolve in a way where jobs follow people. Building a community that is attractive and interesting to our Gen Ys and our Millennials will pay dividends for generations to come. Continuing to engage this group going forward will ensure that we grow when other communities our size are experiencing wage and population decline.
On Sept. 27 our community presented to Kentucky’s Interim Joint Committee on local government co-chaired by Sen. Joe Bowen. Sen. Bowen afforded us the opportunity to share the story of our community’s success relating to the retention and recruitment of young people.
We told our story — Chamber board chair Wade Jenkins and chair-elect Bart Darrell were joined at the podium by seven different YPs testifying — about the limitless opportunities we are finding as we engage our young people — and how the under 40 residents in turn are fueling a renaissance in the Owensboro region which has led to deeper engagement of a group who have much to offer, a stronger economy with steady and sustainable growth and a livable community where you can get involved and make a difference, no matter your age.
We have young business leaders in professional services such as law and accounting. We have leaders in manufacturing with international reach. We have leaders in agriculture who are innovating the way we produce food and the way we view food production in general. We have small business owners in their 20s and 30s that just a short time ago were rare in our community. During the last city commission and mayoral cycles, several millennials were on the ballot. And Representative Matt Castlen was elected in his 20s.
Many under 40s can be found at work in nonprofit fields, education and community and economic development. They are community volunteers, youth team coaches and homeroom moms and dads. To the person — they are vested in where Owensboro is headed.
We share with a video that was conceptualized by our creative team of millennial Chamber staff and Tanner+West, a multimedia company owned and staffed entirely by millennials. https://www.facebook.com/GOChamber/videos/10155912807712370/
We know we have much more to do. But instead of us over 40s deciding what is best for the young leaders, they are at the table shaping our community, developing markets and innovating this small city that we love.
Come to Owensboro and check us out.
By Candance Castlen Brake, President and CEO Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce