Recently, I attended a couple of theater performances. One was a murder mystery performed by the Off Broad Street Players that was sold out each night. The other was a parody of Hamlet presented by the drama class at Stevens High School. During intermission at the high school performance I spoke with several people. One individual commented on the newly renovated auditorium and the magnificent stage. The other person mentioned that the Lebanon High School doesn’t have a drama program. At a meeting not too long ago, I spoke with someone from Hopkinton who mentioned he had heard great reviews about a local restaurant and wanted to try it. The commentary reminded me of the uniqueness of our community, and the need to capitalize on this to attract younger adults.
Last week, we read in the papers how Claremont was rated number one in NH for senior citizens. It was excellent news, and a great tribute to the many people who have worked so hard over the years to make this a reality. Yet, our focus must also be on the younger generations. An article published April 3rd, 2015 in Governing titled “America’s Declining Cities Try to Attract Millennials”, stated “1 million young adults move each year, according to a 2014 City Observatory study. Their presence in a city is a direct reflection of its health and well-being, the study found, as young migrant professionals are key to fueling economic growth and urban revitalization.” The article went on to say that “millennials, born between 1981 and 1997 and now the nation’s largest living generation, are an attractive target for cities and states looking to boost their populations. As the oldest millennials begin to hit their 30s, their priorities shift as they look to put down roots. And that makes smaller cities look more attractive to these “young transitionals.”
Fortunately for us, we are positioned to offer these young transitionals some of the things they want.
We have affordable housing, jobs and volunteer opportunities. We have schools that offer programming not available in other places and a vibrant cultural arts community. According to the same article in Governing, research shows that college-educated young adults, aged 25 to 34, are twice as likely to live within three miles of a city’s downtown core. Today, our downtown features an Opera House, built in 1897 and completely restored, growing companies, an inn, two colleges, numerous eateries, and a variety of unique boutiques and attractive shops.
People are coming, but more work needs to be done. Cities, like Columbus and Philadelphia, are engaged in doing this and are finding success. Though they are much bigger than Claremont, we can learn from them and adapt their strategies to meet our needs. As Philadelphia has discovered,
“There have to be job opportunities, but you have to like where you live. You have to help students connect with the communities in a way that’s meaningful. Some people think job growth drives retention, but people don’t stay if they don’t like it. And for this generation, quality of life is important.”
At the end of the day, it will always be quality of life that wins out. For us, the task is to build upon what is working, remove the barriers that inhibit growth, and promote the unique aspects of our community that sets us apart.
Charlene Lovett is the Mayor of Claremont. Please send any questions, comments or concerns to email@example.com.