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Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Young Smart St. Louisans: Where Do They Go?

St. Louis has a lot going for it in terms of attracting smart and creative young people who don't mind having to make their own way in the world. There are lots of young people here who don't care that there is not a Starbucks on every corner, or an inner-city Whole Foods, or new buildings as far as the eye can see. They see opportunities in the cultural and physical fabric of the existing city that are seductive enough.

But the question that begs asking: Does this city keep those young people around? Does it give them the economic means (good jobs) to bolster their efforts to make this city work against the odds?

After all, when a smart young person gets sick of being a clerk at the hip grocery store or a low-level non-profit functionary, any city can seem like a cold place. Especially one that seems to say to the young person that starting a career has to happen elsewhere.

Chad and Trixie stay on Washington, sure, but what of the young with less money and more ideas? Do they still fly to Chicago, Memphis, San Francisco and Portland? Or do we retain them nowadays?

The answer to that question is a good bellwether of St. Louis' future as a culturally important place.


Tom Duda said...

As a college junior who lives in Minnesota 30 weeks of the year, I continually find myself asking the same questions. There was a time when I refused to entertain the idea of living elsewhere after graduation, but with each new pronouncement of "advancement" and "progress," I become more disengaged from our civic leaders' rosy visions. St. Louis is currently undergoing rapid change, but the public does not presently have an opportunity to help shape our common course. If our city hopes to ever retain and attract creative thinkers, we must now engage in a conversation that seeks to answer two essential questions: For whom are we changing? What is the cost of this change?

Rick Bonasch said...

Being at the end of my "young man" years, and closer to 50 than 40, this is an issue I have lived out for the past 20 something years.

St. Louis is a best bet for living out dreams.

I just spoke with a good friend who left St. Louis a few years ago for one of the coasts for more money and better family proximity.

She has regretted the decision ever since.

She now has two young kids, a jumbo mortgage, long commutes, and a case of the blues.

www.tobyweiss.com said...

I understand and agree with the point of the post. But I also have the strong feeling that many of the young people who say STL has nothing to offer them will wind up on their sofa watching DVDs and bemoaning their crappy job in ANY city they relocate to.

The point being: We each make our own destinies, and geographical location is only a piece of a larger puzzle.

Personally, STL has never gotten in the way of anything I've wanted to achieve. Civic inattentivity and government irresponsibility has often made it easier to hone my interests and goals. And the valid progress I see in the city has happened DESPITE those factors.

Every city has similar problems, even the desirable "Creative Class" cities. It comes down to each person actualizing their own place within it, and connecting with the like-minded.

Maire said...

As a young 20-something, a lot of friends headed to DC and Chicago post-graduate school. I stayed (obviously) because I want to encourage growth in the City and not just have "yuppie" youth moving in. We need solid young families with opportunity for growth. Retension of such young couples begins with quite honestly the schools. I'm Catholic and other Catholic friends know the only choice is to send kids to Archdiocesan-run schools. (And even non-Catholics make this decision.) But if you are a young couple, with thousands of dollars in loans, public school is the only way to go and many friends have moved into Parkway and Rockwood districts because they can afford such. It's more than "fun stuff" downtown (though that needs to be there as well). As a southsider, everything revolves around family and if you can't find "family-friendly" venues and also leave-the-kids-with-a-sitter-it's-our-one-date-night venues, then that adds to the lack of young people in the City. Just my $.02.

StLmom said...

We are among 12 close friends from St. Louis who have, in our mid-thirties, relocated to Arizona, Washington, Colorado, Virginia, California and Oklahoma. The moves were job related with one exception (California) of a friend who moved to be with his girlfriend. We are all highly educated with several advanced degrees, rising in our professions. We did not find what we were seeking in St. Louis and all felt it was time to see what life is like outside the Midwest. I can't explain it beyond that; the timing is coincidental but the number in our group is so significant it gives me pause and makes me wonder if it's happening to other St. Louisans in similar stages of life.

M said...

In response to the last quote, we (my wife and I) are among a close group of about 20 people, all who moved here from other parts of the country and decided to stay due to the amazing opportunities here. I have to agree with one of the posts above, the people who most likely complained about St. Louis and its lack of opportunities probably would do so in any city, and never got out of their apartment to experience this place. Creating career opportunities should be high on our leaders' to-do lists, but opportunity does exist here, and all of our friends are glad they moved here. I think that it takes people like ourselves who came from somewhere else to really see what St. Louis has to offer.

Anonymous said...

I am a 20 year old, 21 in December who is dedicated to St. Louis MSA and in planning. My number one concern is jobs. So many great private planning jobs are in New York, D.C., Chicago, & San Francisco. Companies and governments need to be dedicated to the advancement of this region and work together through regionalism so that I have work in the future. Also, Missouri companies and government need to consider hiring college educated Missourians and not just importing people from other states because we offer the same great educational opportunities from community college to nationally recognized prestiguous Washington University.

Metrolink seems to be a unifying force for governments to consider transit oriented development together and ridership potential, and of course tax dollars!

Anonymous said...

I'm in St. Louis because I've found it too be the most affordable gay-friendly city in America. Any place cheaper lacks diversity and culture, making this hidden treasure America's best buy. Plus, here, I get to be more directly involved in the renaissance, rather than just another face in the crowd.