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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Tucson and Generation X

    Last year, Forbes magazine ranked Tucson the 22nd-best city to live and work in, out of 150 cities in the larger metro category. Entrepreneur magazine ranked Tucson second on its list of midsize “”U.S. Hot Cities for Entrepreneurs.”” A number of other publications also made a place for Tucson on their rankings lists. Basically, last year, Tucson was made out to be kind of a big deal.

    So why is it that so many students graduating from the UA and young people searching for a place to live and work just aren’t that impressed?

    “”Beyond activities relating to the UA, there just isn’t much for young people to do in this city,”” said Stacey Sokolowski, a public health senior. “”Once I graduate and am no longer a part of student life, I really don’t know what Tucson would have to offer me. I don’t plan to stay here.”” Sokolowski is not the only soon-to-be-graduate at the UA with these complaints about Tucson. It isn’t uncommon to overhear students on campus planning to spend the weekend in Scottsdale or preparing for a move after graduation to San Diego, where restaurants, dance clubs and bars are plentiful.

    There are students – a small minority – who feel that Tucson already offers much of what they want from a town. Ranjan Grover, an optical sciences graduate student, likes the cultural influences, the one-of-a-kind restaurants and microbreweries that make Tucson different.

    But it is the complaints of the masses that are being heard, and it’s about time. During a talk at one of the local ward offices, Joe Snell, the recently appointed president and CEO of Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities, Inc., discussed this very issue with those in attendance.

    Mr. Snell emphasized the importance of retaining UA students after graduation and integrating them into Tucson’s workforce, as well as the need to attract young professionals from elsewhere. He stressed the importance of students’ and young professionals’ desire for better entertainment and affordable living near campus and downtown. To my surprise, all of the Tucson residents at the meeting – the majority senior citizens – agreed.

    Since that meeting, TREO has been developing a plan called Tucson’s “”Economic Blueprint.”” Laura Shaw of TREO describes the blueprint as a tool to bring together important sectors in Tucson and really analyze the region’s unique assets and weaknesses.

    This plan will be vital in attracting and retaining younger labor to encourage the growth of a young, forward-thinking workforce. On this topic, Shaw noted, “”We have visited Austin, Texas, and looked at other communities that attract younger labor – we have learned that graduates want affordable housing, entertainment, a selection of jobs so they can move up and around as their careers progress, a good educational system, among others.””

    ÿSo now the city knows what grads want, but without action, Tucson will continue to see its UA students pack up and move out – taking their talent and skills with them. Some argue that if Tucson had more jobs, more students would stay. But this city really needs to step up and give students other reasons to stay; their presence will, in turn, entice companies looking for a young labor force.

    Tucson is not alone in its quest to build a livable city that will nurture a Generation X workforce. Cities across the nation and around the world are realizing that this young workforce’s skill and openness to technology will be assets in this era of globalization and that in order to attract this kind of workforce they must begin to look at what is important to this generation.

    This is made evident by the fact that a number of consulting companies have started to focus on helping various cities and towns make themselves more “”livable”” for this generation. One such company, Next Generation Consulting, considers characteristics including vitality, earning, learning, social capital, cost of lifestyle and after-hours when helping a community to see how young workers are sizing it up.

    It is not to say that everyone will agree on how Tucson should change. Growing pains are sure to be felt as this city attempts to maintain the delicate balance between making needed changes and holding on to some of its undeniable charms and positive attributes.

    But the fact is, as our population approaches the 1 million mark, attracting and retaining a vibrant, young workforce that will keep this city running is no longer an option. It is a necessity.

    Vanessa Valenzuela is a junior majoring in international studies and economics. She can be reached at

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