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Why YP Groups?

By Stephanie Dunlap · August 31st, 2005 · All The News That Fits
It's funny, because there have been young adults in Cincinnati for years now. Centuries, even.

But ever since Richard Florida hypothesized in his 2002 book The Rise of the Creative Class that young, artistic and technologically savvy people are key to cities' economic success, it seems city leaders have been a lot more willing to put up with them (see "Bright Flight, Small City," on the page).

Actually, they're doing more than suddenly paying heed to this "creative class," also sometimes referred to as young professionals or "YPs." Many cities are scrambling to actively recruit them -- not with specific jobs, but by convincing them that this is the place to be and to stay.

The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce hosts a site linking to 41 local organizations that cater to the younger demographic (ypcincy.com).

But it's still not easy to define exactly what that demographic is.

Barry Gee, director of Cincinnati Advance (cincinnatiadvance.com), doesn't think much of the term "young professional," which usually refers to people ages 21-40. That shuts out the more mature Gee, while a recent college grad dangles off the other end of the age spectrum.

Then there's "professional." It's true that many who are drawn to these organizations have corporate jobs and can afford snazzy getups. But are servers professionals, or the chefs whose food they serve? What about a receptionist or an assistant or customer service reps in bookstores, gardening stores, car repair shops or sex stores?

"We're more into the creative class, as opposed to the young professionals," Gee says.

But there are also problems with the "creative class" tag. First, it includes the cringe-inducing, elitism-tinged word "class." Then there's the "creative" bit.

"We always struggle with that definition," Gee says. "Does that mean I have to paint?"

What trumps semantics are the priorities that many from this general demographic embrace.

First, acceptance and diversity of sexual orientation, skin color and heritage is a big deal.

"I think people are leaving because of the perception that we're not tolerant and that there's not a lot of opportunity here, especially for young people," Gee says. "I think it's especially true of the African-American community, as you saw from that article" (see "I'm Hungry," issue of Aug. 10-16).

Gee also hopes the next mayor will create more opportunities for immigrants and look for more innovative ways to lure small- and medium-size businesses, particularly those owned by African Americans.

"I think we fall back on the old, 'If you build it, they will come,' " he says. "If they just build the next department store, it'll solve everything. If they just build the next development on the riverfront, it'll solve everything."

This demographic also craves thriving, supportive local music and arts scenes, good public transportation and access to technology such as free Wi-Fi.

An emphasis on regionalism was perfectly illustrated by a recent mayoral debate in which candidates were asked to address issues specifically affecting young professionals. It was hosted by Legacy, a Northern Kentucky YP organization, in collaboration with YP volunteer group Give Back Cincinnati and CET (nkylegacy.com, givebackcincinnati.org).

"The future of Cincinnati depends on new leadership, and that leadership will determine not only the future of Cincinnati but the region as a whole," says Warner Allen, Legacy's event chair for the Aug. 30 debate.

Allen believes groups such as Legacy, which has 185 volunteer members, accomplish more than just social networking.

"I think the difference we've made is that we have shown people in the community that we're out here in full force and we are an example of a group of people that came together and made decisions that positively impact our community," he says.

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