City must work to attract young professionals to fill workforce needs of future

Published 8:55 am Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Part of my job as a planner is to always be thinking about the future of the city 10 or 20 years from today and how the various decisions I, the Planning Commission, City Council, and City Administration make will impact the city in the future. This is like how a business plans strategy and sales over the next five years. Jointly with my tasks as an economic developer, I also consider workforce and economic impacts on the city which brings me to my topic today — young professionals.
Simply for the sake of statistics for this article, we’ll say professionals under the age of 45 meet the “Young Professionals” category (not that 45 is old by any means). This gives us an easy split of a little over 20 years for an early portion of one’s career and a little over 20 years for a later portion of one’s career. When we look at Carter County’s labor force (those working or looking for work), there is a significantly higher concentration of people over the age of 62 and a significantly lower concentration of people between the ages of 22-34 when compared to the rest of Tennessee. Additionally, there are almost 5,500 people or 22 percent of the workforce who will be eligible to retire in the next 10 years — that’s more than 1 of every 5 people who are working or looking for a job today — and we must be ready!
If these statistics aren’t startling enough, think about this — we’re already hearing from businesses and industries in Elizabethton and throughout the Johnson City area that they are having a hard time filling certain professional level positions. Not only will young professionals help fill the gap left by older Carter Countians retiring, but they will also fill a workforce need and help keep our business and industry from leaving to go elsewhere to find the workforce they need in the future.
We therefore must work to make our community an attractive place for young professionals to want to locate, live, and raise a family. Amenities that this group often look for are walkable communities, communities with high quality of life, affordable communities, and diverse communities. Many young professionals (just under 80 percent) prefer to live in a community where most daily trips are walkable rather than driving a car. On top of affordability, young professionals also expect high quality of life such as good park systems, art, cultural, and entertainment events/festivals and venues, and lively social areas in the community. What do we need to do in our community to encourage more of these types of activities?
A group of us are working in Elizabethton to restart our young professional’s group — Young Elizabethton Professionals (YEP!). We hope that this group can provide an opportunity to young professionals to meet each other, network with each other, and get involved in our community to make it a more attractive place for young professionals to be! Erwin has been highly successful with their young professional’s program and if we want our community to grow and thrive in the future, today’s young professionals are the way forward. Let’s talk about it!
(Jon Hartman is Director of Planning & Economic Development for the City of Elizabethton. He can be contacted at: or by phone at 542-1503.)

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