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Tennessee Talent is Magnetic

Tennessee communities invest in development of young professionals.

By Teree Caruthers on May 20, 2019

Tennessee / Photo Courtesy of New Memphis Institute

A winning combination of a diverse and growing economy that offers a wealth of career opportunities coupled with an abundance of quality of life advantages are drawing talent to Tennessee.

A favorable tax structure, lower cost of living, access to career opportunities, abundant outdoor opportunities and an authentic arts and music scene are luring talent – particularly young professionals – to the Volunteer State. 

“Research shows that this generation is heavily focused on experiences as opposed to material possessions, and Tennessee is positioned so well for that,†says Dana Glenn, president of PEAK – Kingsport Young Professionals. “From Memphis to Nashville to Bristol, music is ingrained in our state’s culture. It’s easy to catch a show or attend a festival here, and there are also 56 state parks.”

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Tennessee is business-friendly and proactive about creating high-quality jobs, Glenn says, and infrastructure is in place to support entrepreneurs in communities of all sizes.

“The lack of a state income tax continues to be a big selling point for young professionals,†she says.

Tennessee / Photo Courtesy of New Memphis Institute

Community Connection

PEAK helps nurture Kingsport’s young talent pool by providing networking opportunities, professional development and training and opportunities for young professionals to get involved in their community. PEAK members, for example, maintain a small dog park, The Barking Lot, in downtown Kingsport. This project stemmed from a community need – people wanted to live downtown, but the lack of green space prevented it from being pet-friendly. 

“PEAK’s ultimate goal is to produce community leaders,†she says. “The social aspect of a young professionals organization is important because we want people to feel connected, but there is a reason we place a heavy emphasis on professional development and civic volunteerism. In our eyes, service is the best gift we can give our community, and we constantly promote community board openings and opportunities to support local nonprofits.”

Economic Engine

Glenn says organizations, such as PEAK, are vital to the region’s economic development.

“Ten thousand baby boomers turn 65 every day. It’s imperative to the vitality of communities to have a workforce pipeline. Organizations like PEAK help with workforce attraction and retention in many ways. Sometimes it’s as simple as helping someone feel connected to their new community, and other times it’s formally pitching our community to residents, interns, or co-ops that could work anywhere in the world,†Glenn says.

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On the other side of the state, the New Memphis Institute is focused on investing in young people’s potential and connecting them to networks of other professionals who also want to engage in the community.

“Fostering a professional’s attachment to community can have a huge impact on a city’s prosperity,†says Anna Mullins Ellis, vice president of communications and strategic initiatives for the New Memphis Institute. “Research has found that cities with the highest levels of attachment had the highest rate of GDP growth.”

Tennessee / Photo Courtesy of New Memphis Institute

Career Builders

The organization’s Launch: College to Career program connects college students with professional opportunities and networks in the city. 

New to Town events help introduce relocated young professionals to Memphis, and the Embark and Fellows programs help young professionals build critical leadership skills to grow in their careers and communities.

“Graduates of New Memphis programs are more likely to collaborate effectively, possess the capacity to manage a diverse team and be highly engaged employees,†Ellis says. “They also walk away from their program experience with fresh connections to other professionals from across the city they otherwise would not have met.”

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Ellis says smart cities across the country are doubling down on efforts to appeal to young professionals, so Memphis must invest in talent retention at a community level.

“Young professionals are the nation’s most mobile demographic; they are willing to migrate to more livable communities. Great jobs are important, but young people are drawn to cities because of what else they can offer,†Ellis says.

“Memphis has to be intentional about not just attracting business with high-earning jobs, but also making sure young talent see our city as a place they can live their best life,†she says.

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