Many people think millennials, or those born between 1982 and 2004, prefer to live in bustling urban areas and are likely to avoid putting down roots in smaller, more rural communities – but Greater Idaho Falls residents know that’s not the case.
According to Jan Rogers, CEO of the Regional Economic Development for Eastern Idaho, it’s the “rural millennials” who are finding the region a good fit, and she’s working to spread the message.
“We have a honey pot of millennials in our region,” Rogers says. “Over 80 percent of the general population in Rexburg is under age 30, which is why we’ve named it ‘Millennial City USA,’ and 18,000 on-campus students register at Brigham Young University-Idaho, Rexburg each semester. However, when you consider the growth we’ve had in the region and our growth potential, it’s clear that we need to attract more millennial talent immediately.”
As a result, the REDI is working to better understand what rural millennials are looking for. The organization recently completed a focus group series in which residents age 20-32 in the 78-mile corridor from Rexburg to Pocatello were surveyed with the purpose of learning more about the generation’s needs and wants.
In addition, Rogers says the REDI plans to use social media – particularly Facebook, the network most rural millennials use regularly – as well as face-to-face recruitment efforts to get its message across.
“We’re going to take a multifaceted approach to this,” Rogers says. “As the regional economic development organization, our focus is going to be on talent attraction and retention. We’re doing our best to understand who our audience is and learn how to communicate with them, then develop a strategy around that.”
Thriving Careers in Diverse Industries
Part of the REDI’s strategy is to show millennials the many career opportunities the region offers. For example, Idaho National Laboratory’s presence in the area makes it a top spot for those pursuing careers in the science/technology sector, and 23 percent of the industry’s employees are part of the millennial generation. Additionally, millennials make up 37 percent of the health-care industry’s employees, and the generation comprises 33.3 percent of the finance sector’s talent pool.
Hope Morrow, regional labor economist for the Idaho Department of Labor, is just one example of a millennial who moved to the region to further her career. Morrow, age 22, relocated to Idaho Falls from Spokane, Wash., in 2016 after landing her current job, and she says the area is especially ideal for young people in the beginning stages of their careers.
“Eastern Idaho – Idaho Falls in particular – is a great place for career opportunities,” Morrow says. “Due to slow growth in education attainment in the region and swift industry growth, there are many mid- to upper-level job opportunities available for young people that are likely not available to them in larger metropolitan statistical areas. The relatively smaller community allows for easy access to networking, too.”
Great Quality of Life Is a Major Draw
The REDI’s plan to attract and retain millennials also includes a focus on the quality-of-life advantages that are unique to the region, such as its proximity to outdoor recreation opportunities. Residents have quick access to destinations like Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, City of Rocks National Reserve and Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. Twin Falls’ Perrine Bridge – a famous BASE jumping spot in the Snake River Canyon – is just a two-hour drive away.
“Any recreational activity you can think of is within a half-day’s drive of the Greater Idaho Falls region, except for swimming in the ocean,” Rogers says. “The list of outdoor opportunities is endless no matter the season, and for those who think that’s important, this place is a mecca.”
That’s not all. The region’s cost of living is well below the national average, and Greater Idaho Falls residents aren’t far from big-city experiences in Salt Lake City, Utah. Furthermore, many consider the region an excellent place to raise children due to its family-friendly atmosphere and variety of kid-centric amenities.
“There are so many things for kids to do in Eastern Idaho,” Rogers says. “There’s the Idaho Falls Zoo and the amazingly beautiful Tautphaus Park, for example, as well as an amusement park. Our communities are perfect for young families.”