VIRGINIA BEACH — For one coveted demographic, Virginia Beach may be gradually becoming more than just a place to spend spring break. For millennials, it’s emerging as a place to call home.
One widely discussed recent study found that between 2010 and 2015, the oceanfront city saw a 16 percent increase in its millennial population according to research from the Urban Land Institute, which was featured in TIME magazine.
According to a Southside real estate professional, it all starts with jobs.
“The single most important thing that we need to be focused on in this region in terms of growth and development is making sure that we have more high-paying jobs here because our younger folks — millennials and the younger generations that will follow them — will go where ever the jobs are,” said Joash Schulman, a real estate and business attorney and co-founder of Town Center Office Suites.
Schulman is an example. He moved to Virginia Beach in 2007 at the age of 28 for work — and after a decade of living within the Town Center area, he added that he has no intention of leaving.
And he may not be alone.
According to a housing market analysis done last year by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the city saw an increase of around 7,000 total jobs in 2015. Most of those jobs were in education, health services and the leisure and hospitality industries, HUD said.
Opportunities have also opened in Virginia Beach for graduates who specialize in science and technology fields.
DAO Group and Global Technical Systems, for example, announced plans to relocate and expand, respectively, in Virginia Beach in April — and roughly 50 new tech jobs opened up with annual salaries between $48,000 and $64,000. The national average median income of people between 25 and 34 is $34,837, according to a study from the U.S. Census Bureau.
“The city’s focus on cyber security and biology are both designed to allow people graduating from our region’s universities with degrees in the sciences or technology the opportunity to stay and utilize these skill sets here as opposed to having to move to a larger metro area,” said Steve Harrison, business development and research manager in the Virginia Beach Department of Economic Development.
According to Harrison, the development authority has focused on recruiting companies looking for candidates with advanced degrees in order to offer graduates from regional and state institutions opportunities to kickstart their careers while staying local.
A Southside millennial echoes that view.
Anthony Anderson, 34, a business student at Tidewater Community College, said he has found opportunities to make a good living in the city, but those opportunities are scarce for residents without their degrees.
“If you’re not established, if you don’t have an education, and if you don’t have the proper connections and resources, you’ll find yourself out in the back,” he said. “I never thought that I would be working for the City of Virginia Beach ever in my life, but I got it, and they are actually hiring for more city employees through the same agency that I got hired through.”
An academic, meanwhile, points to another factor: the importance of being on the digital cutting edge.
Peter Shaw, a professor of business administration and management at TCC, has spent six years studying trends within the millennial generation.
Communities and cities that are attracting the younger generations have provided a progressing and comprehensive digital experience, he said.
“The smart communities will develop a digital community,” he added. “Whereby they have the advanced technology not only for the commercial purposes that the companies need, but also the governmental side where they can provide governmental services that you can use from home — like paying your taxes — in addition to education services with advanced learning technologies.”
In addition, Shaw said, millennials also want comprehensive mass transit and an entertainment scene with bars, live entertainment, concerts and more.
Anderson, the TCC student, gives Virginia Beach high marks on that front.
It’s a good place for people who want to come and mingle in a diverse setting as the city has a mix of venues and cultural activities at the Oceanfront and Town Center, he said.
But even that may not be enough, according to Shaw, who cited another crucial variable among millennials: a kind of critical mass.
“They want a community that is attracting other millennials,” he said. “You need to have a place that not only attracts millennials and retain them and have them want to stay and start a family there, but that’s also attractive to bring other millennials to join their community.”
Still, millennials looking at Virginia Beach may find things can get a bit pricey.
The cost of living in Virginia Beach was reportedly 13.5 percent higher than the national average according to Salary Expert, a digital platform operated by the Economic Research Institute that utilizes cost of living data as a tool for public use in career and relocation.
Rent Jungle, an online search engine for rental housing, reported that the average rent in the city was around $1,160. According to the site’s data, a one-bedroom apartment in Virginia Beach as of May 2017 was around $1,000 a month on average while rent for a two-bedroom place was $1,183.
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