The Hipness Battle

By Adrian Duyzer
Published November 27, 2006

American cities are engaged in a "hipness battle" intended to attract and retain young people, The New York Times reported last Friday.

Portland and Memphis are among cities that are investing in bike paths, revitalizing their downtowns, and even offering services like the "Entertainment Express" trolley that takes party goers from one bar to the next in Lansing, Michigan.

[T]he latest population trends have forced them to fight for college-educated 25- to 34-year-olds, a demographic group increasingly viewed as the key to an economic future.

Mobile but not flighty, fresh but technologically savvy, "the young and restless," as demographers call them, are at their most desirable age, particularly because their chances of relocating drop precipitously when they turn 35. Cities that do not attract them now will be hurting in a decade.

"It's a zero-sum game," said William H. Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution, noting that one city's gain can only be another's loss. "These are rare and desirable people."

They are people who, demographers say, are likely to choose a location before finding a job. They like downtown living, public transportation and plenty of entertainment options. They view diversity and tolerance as marks of sophistication.

Like Dofasco has long advertised, decision-makers in these cities are realizing that their strength is people, especially young people. They're realizing that what attracts young people are not expressways or strip plazas, but vibrant downtowns with fast and efficient public transit and bike paths, plenty of entertainment options, and an atmosphere that promotes creativity and diversity.

Hamilton already attracts many young people who come here for post-secondary education, primarily at McMaster University and Mohawk College. The key is retaining these people when they graduate from school.

I speak from experience when I say that we're doing a terrible job at that: I made friends with a lot of McMaster students when I worked in Westdale in my late teens and early twenties, and not a single one of them remains in Hamilton.

Hamilton took a step towards a better environment when it embarked on a tree-planting program. Some enlightened person or people at City Hall realized that the benefit of investing in these young trees would be felt for years to come.

It's time City Hall took the next step and started taking steps to plant and nurture young people in this city.

Adrian Duyzer is an entrepreneur, business owner, and Associate Editor of Raise the Hammer. He lives in downtown Hamilton with his family. On Twitter: adriandz


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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted November 27, 2006 at 15:13:29

Exactly! These people dont want to live next to a highway in some dead zone. They want to live in a CITY--and that means busy, lively streets with lots of things to do and lots of people to do it with.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 27, 2006 at 17:28:29

not to get weird on everyone, but I"ve wondered at times if city hall intentionally does not do this properly because they don't want our city full of young, hip people. That would certainly lead to various citizen groups and demands from this younger crowd that generally fly in the face of the old boys club running (ruining) this town.
Call me crazy, but I think the power-hungry special interest group in Hamilton weilds far too much power and aren't intent on reliquinshing it until their time is up. The last thing they want is an educated, fun, hip, mobile crowd coming into town and demanding that this city be run properly.

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By Kevin (registered) | Posted November 28, 2006 at 10:19:58

Can we please stop referring to hipness. It's bloody ridiculous.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted November 28, 2006 at 10:40:10

Can we especially stop referring to young and hip? They're not inextricably linked, you know!;-)

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By adrian (registered) | Posted November 28, 2006 at 14:15:36

Sure, there are plenty of hip older people - well, 'plenty' might be pushing it - but in this context, the point being made is about long-term future. Not to be too harsh about it, but the older you are, the more your long-term future consists of either death or retirement (generally both, but I don't want to be a pessimist).

If we want Hamilton to be a great place to live in 2 or 3 decades, we need to attract people who will be alive and working in 2 or 3 decades.

By the way, "hip" is not a word that I typically use, but the NYT article did it first.

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By (anonymous) | Posted November 28, 2006 at 14:21:12

Hamilton is in need of some "fresh blood" at city hall. Unfortunatley, that only happens when people vote for change. The "young people" had their chance to change things and they blew it because not enough of them voted. We still have basically the same tired group at City Hall. I will guarantee you that the majority of people who voted were over 35. This forum is a great way for people to express their views but ya gotta vote if wanna change.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted November 29, 2006 at 11:25:44

Speak for yourself Kevin. My hips are killing me!

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By Sir Hip (anonymous) | Posted November 29, 2006 at 17:15:49

I think I'm hip, therefor I am.

Also, I am trés cool.

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