As a small business owner, I am learning the relevance of the trending terms ‘we’re living in very fluid times’ and ‘the new-normal’. Every aspect of my business model has become fluid. Everything was changed and then changed again. Not limited to my business, but as a member of City Council I have become familiar with even more of this ‘new-normal’ verbiage: flatten the curve, essential workers and social distancing. Now even the word Zoom has new meaning to several million working professionals.
Working professionals, also known as the elusive young professional. Just who are they anyway? Young professionals are out of school and are employed in a professional or a white-collar occupation with an age that ranges from 23-35 years old. They are highly sought after. You can ask any business owner and they with confirm that one of the greatest challenges of their business is hiring and retaining young professionals for long term employment.
How do we retain local graduates and attract top talent to Siouxland?
Attracting and retaining young professionals is one tall order. However tall the order, our community is preparing to do what we need to do to fill it. Young professionals and even empty-nest professionals are attracted to a ‘new normal’; an employer located in a city where quality-of-life amenities are prevalent. The ‘new-normal Pro’ is a professional less focused on big houses, cars and living in suburban neighborhoods. They are looking for smaller more compact housing which includes lofts, apartments, and multi-family units. Walkability, close-by neighborhood services, eateries and entertainment all rank at the top of the pro’s wish list. Our job is to get out in front of them with a community that screams ‘we’ve got all of that and then some.’
We are well on our way to completing their new-normal lifestyle check list. Developers are nearing the completion of hundreds of apartments in our amazing Downtown district and Virginia Square is finishing their phase three mixed-use apartment complex. Some of our great historical buildings have become some of the absolute coolest apartments in the tri-state area. Developers are wise to include mixed-use space to attract new business that may offer other amenities attractive to urban dwellers. We really are amid developing all of the conveniences of urban living and within walking or biking distance to potential employers new to our area. The Entertainment and Historic Districts are well established and growing along with our great Riverfront that has just begun its reconstruction. Additionally, Downtown is not the only area adding new living spaces. The Sunnybrook area has grown exponentially in the last several years. Development in the southern Leeds area has also added multi-family housing. This is an exciting time for our community as these developers invest in our City housing.
Create new jobs; another very tall order. For nearly all employers, the issue of a new location choice is driven by labor. Will they be able to attract the white-collar skills and trade skills needed to operate a new facility? Staffing has become more critical than the perfect location for the new building site. For years we have heard the age-old adage location, location, location. We may need to update that adage to amenities, amenities, amenities. Recapping the near mandatory requirements of both the employers and ‘new-normal Pros’; ample and affordable housing, quality-of-life amenities, good schools, sound infrastructure, cultural opportunities, uncomplicated transportation, restaurants and outdoor spaces. Keep in mind that list is tops for both- employer/employees looking for new locations. From the employer’s perspective, if a city can fill the checklist, the employer can fill staffing requirements.
I am excited to be involved with our City’s growth both as a small business owner and as a City Council Member. We have much to look forward to. Becoming one of Iowa’s most sought-after Cites is going to be our ‘new-normal’.
By Julie Schoenherr, Sioux City Council and owner of SoHo American Kitchen & Bar