We Belong on That List – and That Is Our Challenge.

By: David G. Brown
President & CEO – Greater Omaha Chamber

I was intrigued by a recent survey by apartment locator Abodo.com. More than 2,000 millennials (born between 1982 and 1998) were asked to rank the qualities they desired most in a city.

The top 10 attributes (in order) were:

  • Thriving job market
  • Affordable rent
  • Affordable home prices
  • Parks or hiking trails
  • Local restaurants
  • Quality pizza
  • Top-rated public schools
  • Movie theaters
  • Walkability
  • Revitalized downtown

Next, millennial respondents were asked to rank cities they considered the best choices for them. Abodo.com reports, “Nearly 1 in 5 respondents say New York City is the place to be. Just over 1 in 10 say San Francisco fits the bill, while nearly 1 in 5 dream of the Pacific Northwest: Seattle is the favorite for 9.2 percent of people and Portland for 9.1 percent. Los Angeles comes next, followed by Austin, Chicago, Denver, and San Diego.”

Omaha doesn’t make the list of top 20 cities. But why? I’d argue we excel in almost all of the attribute areas.

  • We enjoy affordable housing, great schools and universities, and a cost of living seven-to-nearly 12 percent below the national average.
  • We are a cultural hub, drawing creative and talented people from all over the globe.
  • We offer some of the finest restaurants in the U.S.
  • We’re making strides in revitalizing our downtown and our riverfront.
  • Developments such as Midtown Crossing and Aksarben Village are emphasizing walkability.
  • Quality pizza? Forget about it.

We have so much to offer as a community. So what is it? Why aren’t we on the list? Our size may have been a factor. (It seems the list focused on larger cities/metros, but that shouldn’t have been the case!) Beyond that – and whether it could have impacted this ranking or not – I think we always need to be mindful of issues of perception and promotion. We’ve been described as a “best kept secret.” Though that may sound like a compliment – for us, it is not.

One of our consultants challenged us “to seize the opportunities to be a place known for innovative businesses, quality of life options, and world-class talent.” In other words, to not remain a best kept secret. We are working hard to accomplish that. In fact, the community’s We Don’t Coast brand is a direct result of our desire to better communicate our region’s attributes and character. (If you’re not using the brand, consider putting it to work – use it in fun and creative ways to tell your story and elevate the image of our entire region. Link to WeDontCoast.com on your websites. The more communities, organizations and individuals that support and utilize the brand, the louder our voice becomes!)

Bottom line – we think there is no better place for millennials to grow their careers and raise their families than Greater Omaha. From rent to restaurants, I’d say we’re the complete package. And when the time comes to applaud our promotion from ‘best kept secret’ to ‘worst kept secret,’ we can all celebrate at Big Fred’s, La Casa’s, or Zio’s or Dante Ristorante or…


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