As community leaders and residents, we need to step back and ask ourselves how we are welcoming growth and change. We are replete with Midwestern hospitality, but for years we have battled the bright flight from our local colleges and universities with marginal improvement at best.
At Bryan Properties, we lease apartments to college students. The highest profile complex is Bear Village, which is designed to be a community within a community close to downtown just west of the Missouri State University campus. So, we have a front row seat to observe our potential local workforce.
You should meet them.
In fact, I invite you to contact me directly. While we cannot introduce you to all of the approximately 40,000 college students in Springfield, I am happy to help find ways you can connect to our 2,000 residents. I hope you will take me up on my offer. We would love to host a job or food fair at Bear Village.
We have some footwork to do in order to demystify some of these students’ assumptions, but I challenge us to address our own.
First, we need to stop treating them as temporary residents of our community. We are quick to introduce new professionals to our networks to give them a jump-start. What if we took that same approach with our college students? We need to take the responsibility for outreach. For example:
Get started by connecting to the faculty in college departments that are relevant to your business.
Volunteer for advisory boards and committees.
Offer to speak to classes and clubs.
Once you meet students, invite them to your business or find other ways to meaningfully connect them to our community.
Secondly, we live in a diverse business community with thousands of vibrant companies, large and small, local and international. We know that. But do our college students? I doubt it. Introduce students to companies other than your own and to professionals who might help them on their journey.
Finally, our college graduates are leaving our community for higher-paying jobs. While it’s easy to say our local wages need to increase (and they do), the students also need to understand that a $60,000 salary in Dallas does not equate to a better lifestyle than a $40,000 salary in Springfield, Missouri. If we work to integrate them into our community at large, the benefits of our local lifestyle will be more easily apparent to them, and if we connect well enough we can tell them firsthand.
We have a fantastic community. Maybe we’re all enjoying it so much we want to keep it a hidden gem; if so, we’re missing the big picture. It’s not going to last if we don’t grow and repopulate. We have the power as a community to keep control of the feel. We want to be a big city in a small town. We are and can continue to be just that. However, for our businesses to grow, so must our population.
Give me a call, and I will happily help connect you to 2,000 prospective employees. We know about them, but they don’t know about us.
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