Tampa’s Demographic Challenge

Forbes’ annual ranking of 40 major metro areas in their attractiveness to young professionals was not kind to Tampa. The Big Guava finished 40th. There were several factors, but none bigger than demographics. It’s skewed older. When it comes to the 20-35 crowd, Tampa still can’t touch the competition.

So, what do you say if you’re Deanne Roberts, one of the founders of the young professionals-oriented Creative TampaBay and a former chairwoman of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce?

“We are ground zero for boomer retirement,” points out Roberts, the president of Ybor City-based Roberts Communications. “And I’ve got all these young professionals saying they don’t like that. We don’t want this community to be that. What can we do?

“Well, we can get over that old-versus-young stereotype,” underscores Roberts. “Many of the things that older demographic wants are the same things that young professionals want. Affordable housing, mass transit and interesting leisure activities – from museums to the performing arts to restaurants.”

Roberts points out that the boomer generation is a new breed of retiree: much more affluent and involved than predecessors. And that includes business opportunities.

“Frankly, we want to capitalize on it – not bemoan it,” says Roberts. “We’ve been talking to the arts people. It’s important for our cultural institutions to tap into this. Think about re-tooling our programs and volunteer base. If our cultural institutions are healthier, then all the benefits also accrue to young people.

“If we’re ground zero for a new type of retiree,” emphasizes Roberts, “then we represent new business opportunities that young professionals can take advantage of. Any young professional with any entrepreneurial ability at all, what an opportunity this is – right in their backyard.”

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