Young Professionals Drawn to Wichita’s Jobs, Lifestyle

Young professionals are drawn to Wichita due to job market and quality of life.

Laura Hill
On Thursday, November 29, 2012 - 11:18

Millennials, Generation Y or simply young professionals – by any name the 21- to 39-year-old demographic is increasingly finding Metro Wichita an attractive place to find jobs, homes and plenty to do.

“Wichita is the largest city in the state, and that makes it the economic hub, and with that comes all of the great companies with desirable jobs that attract young professionals,” says Jason Gregory, executive vice president of the Wichita Downtown Development Corp. “Wichita also offers all the big-city amenities at Midwest prices – and that matters to young professionals.”

Forbes ranked Wichita near the top of its Best-Bang-for-the-Buck Cities and on its list of Best Cities for Jobs. Jobs and low cost of living are an enticing mix – made even better by a thriving arts, culture and entertainment scene.

Heather Denker, director of the Young Professionals of Wichita, makes it her mission to promote the city’s amenities to young professionals and to get them involved in strengthening those assets. YPW is about 2,000 members strong and describes its members as “ambitious, educated and wired; those ready to work hard, play hard and make a difference in the community.

“One of the best things about Wichita is the city’s openness to people’s opinions and its participation,” Denker says. “Wichita is very inclusive. Young professionals can get involved and contribute to who we are as a community. And our organization can help them do that.”

Vibrant Arts, Culture and Nightlife

When it’s time to play, Denker says, young professionals in Wichita have a plenty of options.

“No matter what night of the week you want to get out and enjoy the city, there is always something going on,” she says. “Our citizens have a multitude of ways to enjoy visual arts, performing arts, the music scene and events like the First Friday Music Crawl and Final Fridays Art Crawl.”

The Tallgrass Film Festival, which debuts 100 shorts and feature films each year and has gained national and international recognition, is a signature cultural experience in Wichita. Tallgrass offers programming on par with larger festivals in bigger cities.

“By presenting this sort of programming, we are helping level the playing field here when it comes to cinema” says Lela Meadow-Conner, executive director of Tallgrass Film Association. “Beyond great independent films, the festival offers a communal experience, which is attractive to young professionals. They can see a movie and live tweet about it, and then to go to a festival party or filmmaker chat and network. We live in a connected, yet nomadic society, and young professionals are at the heart of that. Cinema is a medium that connects people all over the world."

Wichita’s growing young adult population enjoys the popular Old Town District, home to more than 100 restaurants, shops, clubs, theaters, galleries and museums. Up-and-coming projects expected to add to the lure of downtown include a new $23 million downtown YMCA branch, streetscape work on Douglas Avenue to enhance walkability, new boutique hotel along with lofts and condos, and the new Waltzing Waters show at WaterWalk.

More Downtown Investment Ahead

The continued revitalization of downtown is the right move for Wichita, Gregory says.

“Demographic trends keep telling us that young adults want to live, work and play in downtown areas,” he says. “That’s becoming more possible thanks to the residential projects we have under way. In the next year or so, more than 260 residential units should come on line downtown – and that speaks volumes about the demand. It's a momentum we want to continue.”


Laura Hill is a former reporter/columnist for the Tennessean and a contributor to Journal Communications publications since 1996.