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Anderson considers ways to attract millennials to downtown

ANDERSON, Ind. (AP) – The city of Anderson is looking for ways to attract young professionals to the downtown area, according to local officials.

City leaders want to establish Anderson as a cultural hotspot, patterned after Seattle and Portland, Oregon, and other places where the millennial generation is flocking. And they have embarked on a quest to attract and retain young talent, said Levi Rinker, downtown development specialist for the Anderson Economic Development Department.

“That is the staple for our future generation,” he said. “If we don’t keep our own talent, how can you attract businesses to move in here?”

Anderson would benefit from permanent businesses downtown, like a brewery, unique shops and restaurants, Rinker told The (Anderson) Herald-Bulletin. Festivals that are popular among all age groups, which have seen success in Anderson in recent years, also create culture and identity for the city, he said.

Millennials, people born roughly between 1980 and the mid-2000s, like to try new things and will pay for experiences, said Maureen McAvery, a senior resident fellow for retail at the Urban Land Institute, an international nonprofit research and education organization that explores urbanization and sustainable development.

It’s important for young adults to have bars and a nightlife scene of their own, she said.

“Clearly, this generation is attracted to more beer than hard liquor and bars that are affordable,” McAvey said. “It’s not going to be at the bar with the wood panels, your father or grandfather’s club environment. It’s going to have music, in some cases live music.”

One Indiana city that appears to have attracted millennials is Muncie. About a decade ago it started a downtown redevelopment effort and two years ago started a “DWNTWN The Original Muncie.”

Thirty new businesses have moved to downtown Muncie since the campaign launched in 2013, said Vicki Veach, executive director of Muncie Downtown Development.

Cities should be flexible and willing to adjust in order to attract millennials, because they make up an impressive generation with creative contributions, and many of them are seeking a cultured environment in smaller communities, McAvery said.

“You want them in your city, because they’re the ones who want to create something new,” she said.