Millenial in a city, smiling

3 Millennials on Why They Love Their City

By Meri St. Jean

Last month, Axios reported on a new nationwide trend: as millennials settle down, they’re leaving bigger cities for smaller, more affordable suburbs.  

According to the news outlet, “Suburbs with good jobs, relatively easy access to nearby city centers and moderate weather are growing twice as fast as the closest cities, per census data.”

In many ways, this phenomenon makes a lot of sense. Affordability, be it housing, transportation, or just general cost of living, is an incredibly attractive incentive for a generation burdened with college-loans. 

Talent attraction and retention is an immensely important issue for the growth and prosperity cities of all sizes. And with this shift in migration, attracting millennials could revive stagnant or declining communities. But what makes them come? No one can answer that question better than millennials themselves. 

Here’s why these three millennials love the cities they live in—in their own words. 

Julie, 27, Tulsa, Oklahoma 

“I literally had to take out a map of the US and locate where in the country is Oklahoma located. This happened when I was accepted into Teach for America and asked to teach in OK…the only region in my preference list that wasn’t in the northeast…where I grew up for 23 years. My contract was for exactly 2 years, and I fully planned on returning to the NE when I was done with that contract. Here I am starting my 5th year in Oklahoma with no intention of leaving any time soon.

Tulsa is like a big city with the perfect amount of small town. It is never uncomfortably crowded anywhere; however, you still have access to such a diverse community and opportunities everywhere. Networking is a breeze because everyone knows everyone and everyone is ready to help and connect others. It’s exciting to see how the city adapts and evolves to when needed.

Tulsa has its struggles: there is poverty, there is bias, there are food deserts… etc.! but the people are becoming aware and instead of waiting for a change agent, they are becoming agents of change themselves. There is a lot of work to be done, but Tulsans are working hard and spreading love and that attracts other hard working and innovative people to visit and STAY.”

Sam, 29, Nashville, Tennessee 

Nashville is a cultural crossroads.

First, of course, there’s country music. It’s always a pleasure to tell folks you’re from world-famous Music City USA, home of Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Bill Ray Cyrus, and Florida Georgia Line. I love that my city’s history is shot through with live music and storytelling, and I love that we’ve still got it in spades today.

When I think about Nashville’s future, though, country music is just one part of the picture. This city is getting more diverse at a breakneck pace, welcoming scores of immigrants from Latin America, North Africa, the Middle East, and elsewhere. Every day, those New American residents are sharing their culture with their new neighbors — expressing themselves and innovating through music, food, faith, art, dance, business, and civic engagement.

Some folks in Nashville will tell you that growth and immigration have moved us away from our identity. But everything we love about our city was built because we gave newcomers — from Johnny and Loretta to Jack White and Maneet Chauhan — a chance to shape Nashville’s direction. So: As long we stay welcoming, accepting, and open to new inspirations, Nashville will always be easy to love.

Spencer, 25, Wilmington, North Carolina

Whether it is due to hurricane season, or your friend’s vacation plans, or just because, you’ve probably heard of Wilmington, North Carolina. Besides the beaches, historic downtown, and booming population, it’s my hometown. And for that reason, and many others, I love my city of Wilmington. 

For starters, the beach (depending on traffic on Eastwood or Carolina Beach Road) is a short drive away. Then there are the local institutions such as Thalian Hall, the Wilmington Symphony Orchestra, and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington that provide the city with cultural events to back its history. Founded in 1739, the city has had its fair share of highs and lows in its near-300-year story, the good and bad chapters being on display downtown or at the Cape Fear Museum. 

Even as a kid, there was plenty the city had to offer: Fort Fisher Aquarium, ice cream at Kilwin’s, no lack of mini-golf options. Growing up, those activities turned into concerts at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater, seeing friends at Mayfair, and relishing the state’s craft beer boom with microbreweries like Flytrap downtown.

While I love my newfound home of Washington, DC, Wilmington will always be my hometown and will always have my love for its beaches, culture, history, and entertainment. It’s a small city with plenty to offer for everyone. 

For more ideas on how to attract millennials to your city, these ten insights from the City of Philadelphia may come in handy.