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Decoding Millennials

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Millennials have spoken: they want food trucks and festivals; bars and restaurants that stay open late; adults-only nights with painting, skating and trivia. And preferably all
this on a budget.

After 820 millennials responded to a Columbia Association (CA) survey that closed in August, the CA Millennial Work Group unveiled a summary of those responses at
a public event Oct. 18 at the Merriweather Post Pavilion Community Room. Those gathered offered input into future recommendations the CA work group will make to
help determine how Columbia can better serve millennials.

What’s a millennial? Though exact definitions vary, for the purposes of the CA, millennials are between the ages of 17 and 35, and they make up about 25 percent of Columbia’s population.

The CA Millennial Work Group are volunteers who met monthly since February to discuss how the CA and Columbia can better satisfy the needs and interests of the millennial population.

The survey covered, among other subjects, how best to communicate with millennials, their most sought-after facilities or programs, and what they are looking for
around Columbia.

Survey says?

In a list of ten proposed activities, the most popular among millennials (81 percent) was “food truck centered events or festivals.”

The next most popular events were “bars/restaurants that stay open late” (60 percent) and “adult only nights” (58 percent).

Millennials also wanted improved communication and engagement from the CA, with the preferred platforms being Facebook and email. They reported they want to be more involved in the community, but would rather be on a task force or engaged in a specific project than serve on a board.

When asked what Columbia most needed, millennials requested more opportunities to socialize, convenient places to walk to (and reasons to go) and gathering areas that feel updated, innovative, and new.

Response to the survey was heaviest from people ages 31-35 (43 percent), and lightest from those ages 17-20 (7 percent). Seventy-four percent of respondents live in Columbia, 31 percent work in Columbia, and 20 percent both live and work in Columbia. During the Oct. 18 event, the CA collected cards to gather further input.

Recommendations 
to 
come

Some of what Columbia’s millennials are requesting or suggesting may not fall under the CA’s purview, noted Jason Jannati, chairperson of the CA Millennial Work Group. But knowing better what this population wants will help to make future recommendations, said, Jannati, 32, an Oakland Mills High School graduate who is chief development officer for Power52 Energy Solutions, a corporation that focuses on developing, financing, and constructing clean energy solutions.

“The first thing that stuck out to me was how wide that age range is: 17-35. We needed to look at different needs,” Jannati said. “I know I have a different need set than somebody right out of college and we wanted to be aware of that.”

The most significant difference coloring the preferences of millennials is whether or not they have kids, said Jannati: “Everything changes when the strollers get involved.”

The survey is the first-ever in-depth look that CA has taken about millennials, said Jessica Bellah, a CA community planner.

“We’ve looked at older adults. It was time to look at what young adults need because they are a pretty large contingent of the population. And we want to have millennials themselves guide the process,” Bellah said.

More
 input
 sought

The survey results — and the ensuing recommendations — will give businesses as well as the CA the opportunity to engage with millennials, said Bellah. In looking at which CA facilities most appeal to young adults, the survey found the Supreme Sports Club got higher ratings because it’s open 24 hours, seven days a week to meet a wide range of work and family schedules.

“With this population, timelines need to be broadened,” she said. “Millennials go into work early and come home late. They have longer commuting times. The want classes and facilities that are open to meet their hourly needs.”

Bellah pointed out that entrepreneurs might note that many millennials seem to want more non-chain restaurants. “This is not something the CA offers but could be a window of opportunity for a startup business.”

Columbia is often cited as a great place to live, work and play, but millennials would like more chances to identify with the “play” aspect, said Jannati.

Bellah added: “When we ask what attracts people to Columbia, we found people love the trees, the pathways, the environment. What people want is an urban core and a great landscape.”