To attract professionals, Northern Nevada seeks to be ‘cool’ |

To attract professionals, Northern Nevada seeks to be ‘cool’

Becky Bosshart
Appeal Staff writer

RENO – Tell me where you live, and I’ll tell you how cool you are. An expert on young professionals said that’s what smart, tech-savvy, upwardly mobile professionals are thinking.

Young professionals define themselves by where they live rather than what company they work for, said Rebecca Ryan, founder of Wisconsin-based Next Generation Consulting. To attract young talent to an aging area, Northern Nevada must increase its “coolness” factor, she said Wednesday at the regional economic forum Directions 2006.

Generation X, those born from 1961 to 1981, want to work at cool companies in cool cities. For the nearly 1,000 professionals, business owners and political leaders in the audience who may not have had an idea of what “cool” is, Ryan broke it down to seven essential quality-of-life factors that she said young professionals are passionate about.

“I’ve talked to more than 7,500 young people and three out of four Americans under the age of 28 first pick a place to live and then find a place to work,” she said. “Over half say a cool community is as important or more important than a good job.”

Young professionals are also not looking to have a lifelong career with one company. She said on average a 32-year-old has switched jobs nine times.

That’s true for 33-year-old Rebecca Venis, an advertising account executive with the Bauserman Group in Reno.

“Oh, my God that is me,” she said after the forum. “I came to Reno to go to school here and I never left. I stayed here because I ski and golf.”

Generation Xers, minorities and women are starting businesses because they are often shut out of the boardrooms of American corporations, filled with those who are “pale, male and stale.”

Joe McCarthy, Carson City economic development and redevelopment manager, said the city needs diversification at a time when it is crowded by those in retirement or nearing it.

“The Latino community is aggressively seeking entrepreneurship,” he said. “But there are aspects that can’t happen on their own. The city needs to partner with them and help them grow.”

Northern Nevada has something to fear: a growing older population and a shrinking younger generation.

Ryan said the area’s median age is 37.4, which is a few years older than the national average. The percent of the local population that is aged 25-44 is 28 percent, which is down from 35 percent in 1990.

Northern Nevada has become an ideal location for retirement, which isn’t the demographic that the powerful technology sector is likely to recruit. She quoted a statistic that said almost 60 percent of computer technicians are Generation Xers.

“Most of the folks moving here are closer to retirement than they are to their first day of work,” Ryan said.

What makes a cool community?

Ryan said the coolness factor of an area increases by how it rates on seven key factors. The first is the availability of lifelong learning. The second is the potential earning power for entrepreneurs, who make up a majority of Generation X. Since they are younger, this generation wants things to do after 5 p.m., which is also a factor.

The area’s proximity to outdoors activities, the “around town” factor, is also an incentive. This is connected to the vitality of the community, and if the people are perceived as healthy and active.

“Social capital is the most important index – is this a community that values diversity and inclusion?” she asked.

Young professionals are more likely to stay in an area where their voices are heard, she said. Finally, this generation also looks to see if it can afford to live in an area comfortably.

How Northern Nevada scores

In every factor, the area scores above average, Ryan said. She showed a circular diagram with the preliminary numbers plotted out like constellation.

Northern Nevada scored highest in vitality with a 7, on a scale of 1-10. The “around town,” “after hours” and “social capital” factors were ranked at 6. All other factors came in at about average at 4.

She said this base is good, but the region must continue to preserve its natural environment by preventing urban sprawl. Ryan said residential development for all classes of people is also an important factor.

To find out more about being a “cool company” visit

By the numbers

University of Nevada, Reno statistics:

From a survey conducted of more than 4,700 UNR graduates since 2000:

65 percent are employed full-time

11 percent part-time

4 percent self-employed

9 percent graduate assistants

6 percent are unemployed

5 percent are in school

80 percent work in Nevada

20 percent work outside the state

6 percent live in Clark County

92 percent live in Northern Nevada

73 percent are working in a field closely related to their major degree area

Education is the largest employer, with 30 percent

76 percent of alumni secured their first position within three months of graduation

Source: Office of University Assessment, UNR