Editorial

The power of two generations is felt and measured with significant impact

June 27, 2014
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During the past few weeks, the Business Journal’s reporting efforts have covered the vast spectrum of the residential building boom and the entrepreneurial efforts driven by two specific groups: baby boomers and millennials.

The connectedness between the two generations is certainly missed by some, but the business community increasingly has recognized what is occurring with new trend-setting projects.

Downtown developers and Grand Rapids planners have been talking about the trends and new initiatives especially in the past two years. In survey after survey, the two groups dominate the influx of urban dwellers, the use of urban transportation such as The Rapid, and near-downtown neighborhood development.

Suzanne Schulz, Grand Rapids’ managing director of design, development and community engagement, noted that while millennials have been moving into downtowns across the country, so, too, have baby boomers seeking maintenance-free living, healthy lifestyles and proximity to cultural and education institutions.

Earlier this month, Gov. Rick Snyder addressed the state legislature with programs that recognize how the expertise of business startups is at the hands of “retired” boomers. Since 2012, the fastest-growing age segment of owners of new businesses in the country is adults age 50 to 59. Snyder is directing the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and Michigan Small Business and Development Center, SBA and others to better coordinate entrepreneurial efforts for older adults.

He further addressed Michigan’s talent shortage by taking note of firms such as Bosch Enterprises that have started programs to provide flexible hours, job sharing and part-time work to keep critical engineering talent. He has used it as an example to employers across the state as a method to power through and continue to build Michigan’s economy.

The governor also cited Grand Rapids Foundation’s support of the Encore Initiatives, offering a wide spectrum of philanthropic assistance as well as career-oriented pairing programs for millennials and baby boomers. Snyder said Michigan residents age 60 and older make up the state’s fastest-growing population and, by 2030, almost one in four Michigan residents will be in that age group.

Snyder also is engaging private sector “partners” like Kelly Services and the Michigan Manufacturers Association for additional programs and plans.

Business and community planning should not be ignorant of this significant change now being seen and measured in this region. It has the power of two generations.

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