Moving to Millennials

The future young entrepreneurs and business leaders we want to attract.

Millenials committee of Main Street Vineland NJThe nexus of economic power and societal impact for everyone’s future is being inherited by the generation that came of age as the century turned – the Millennials.

Examples abound of their using high tech genius to build behemoth companies and dominate markets. And today, a single influencer can have a Twitter reach and Facebook share count in the millions.

Vineland’s journey to the future will include revitalizing downtown to be relevant to Millennials and creating a hipper scene of microbreweries, specialty shops, coffee houses, and restaurants on The Ave to attract them, as well as high-tech, white-collar businesses and jobs to keep them.

Kennedy Smith, a former director of the National Trust and Historic Preservation’s National Main Street Center, is an expert on commercial district revitalization and development and lists three top reasons this connection is vital.

  • Millennials have tremendous buying power, accounting for a third of everything purchased.
  • Millennials love technology and are attracted by high-tech goods and attractions.
  • Millennials are focused on the environment and products made in this country. They are into green causes and are attracted to eco-friendly products and reused and recycled items.

Russell Swanson, VDID/Main Street Vineland Executive Director, said, “These are the people who are taking an active interest in keeping our downtowns vital. They are the future young entrepreneurs and business leaders we want to attract.

“More and more downtowns are remaking themselves by attracting young people and we’re doing it on The Ave,” he added.

NJ350 popup store in Vineland NJInterns from the younger generation already work with VDID to research some current business models like pop-up stores, business incubators, hackerspaces, and makerspaces. See definitions below.

“They weren’t even born at the time of the downtown that many in the older generation remember and wish could be brought back,” said Swanson. “It’s fun to look back and celebrate the downtown of memories, but we mostly have to look to the future to make our downtown reflect the new ideas of now and a determined look ahead.”

Two years ago, VDID recruited young people for a new Millennial Advisory Board (MAB). At the time, the organization wasn’t sure they’d get anyone, but dozens of young people showed up and now there is a large, strong MAB with ideas, energy, and, most of all, a 21st century perspective. (VDID defines the Millennial/Generation X group as being in their late teens to mid-forties.) Swanson explained that this board, integrated with the four VDID teams, enlarges upon the work already done and its additional input helps form the future of our downtown.

Nobody is in any way overlooking the Baby Boomers.

“They make up a large portion of our business owners and many of our most ardent supporters,” Swanson said. “They are vitally important to our mission to move forward to the future.”

Sarah Johnson, Millenial Board chairpersonThe Millennial Board’s chairperson, Sarah Bradway Johnson, believes in Vineland’s future and knows downtown can’t reach its brightest one without leadership by her generation.

“I feel proud to be working with our future generation of business owners, entrepreneurs, and professionals who will be leaders in our community,” Johnson said. “Our advisory board consists of volunteers with a variety of skill sets, educational backgrounds, and professional experiences, and who all have an interest in seeing a positive change in our city.”

The board is working with businesses to take advantage of the power of social media and online sources such as Facebook, Foursquare, Yelp reviews, and web sites and supports Main Street Vineland with their Fourth Friday and cash assault events. Businesses, in these ways, are encouraged to offer specials that will drive more traffic through their doors. .

“On behalf of the advisory board, I encourage you to join us in participating in great upcoming events and taking leadership roles,” Johnson added. “We’re always looking for more good people to help us plan and turn ideas into reality.”

What’s Up with that?

Makerspaces, sometimes referred to as fablabs, are creative DIY spaces where people can gather to create, invent, and learn. They often have 3-D printers and scanners, software, electronics, laser cutting, craft and hardware supplies and tools, and sometimes video and audio recording studios.

Hackerspaces are similar, but with higher levels of digital technology, sometimes including systems such as robotics and programmer logic controllers (PLS’s).

Businesses making prototypes, students learning new skills, or entrepreneurs with tech startups use these resources.
Cumberland County College’s STEAMWorks in Bridgeton is an example.

Pop-Up Stores – Also called flash or temporary retailing, these shops are set up for a short time—usually one to three months—to sell seasonal or holiday merchandise, launch new products, test a location, or just be cool. They are a significant economic force now because they typically have low overhead, creative and hip products, and low prices. An early pop-up store was on The Ave at the VDID office in December 2014 as part of a Main Street New Jersey celebration of New Jersey’s 350th birthday.

It featured the assets that downtown businesses bring to the state’s economy, culture, and history. Sixteen pop-ups statewide were opened for the four-day anniversary, but Vineland’s was the only one in Cumberland, Salem, Gloucester, and Cape May counties.

Business Incubators help new and startup companies to develop by providing services such as management training or office space. Some of their most frequent offerings are networking activities, marketing assistance and research, and high-speed Internet access. Most experts see incubators as vital to support tech startups and other innovative, forward-looking businesses.

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