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Recent articles in USA Today and the Journal Star highlight some of the challenges communities face in attracting young professionals as they compete with one another for the best and the brightest.

Here’s what USA Today had to say October 10: "In the Cincinnati, Ohio, staid Bankers Club, young men and women mix it up with powerbrokers over beer, wine and hors d’oeuvres. Establishment luminaries work the room to welcome the twentysomethings to their inner sanctum.

"It’s the hippest crowd this sedate, wood-paneled room has ever seen. Even the older CEOs are loosening up. There’s the head of consumer products giant Procter & Gamble, tieless, playing host. University and chamber presidents, the newspaper publisher, bankers and executives bounce from table to table for informal chats.

"What’s going on? Why would Cincinnati’s powers-that-be court people half their age? For the same reason Pittsburgh, Richmond, Memphis, Tampa, Indianapolis, Baton Rouge, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Tallahassee, and Fresno are launching Web sites, organizing summits, staging arts and music festivals and investing in glitzy promotions: to lure young professionals.

"’Be hip and they will come’ is the motto of a new movement in second-tier cities that have lost their best and brightest to more urbane centers such as San Francisco, New York, Seattle, Atlanta, Washington and Boston. Wooing young people has never been high on cities’ economic development agendas. Until now.

"Cities spent decades dangling tax breaks and other financial sweeteners to attract big business. They poured billions of dollars into new stadiums, convention centers and aquariums. But their populations continued to shrink and to age. Two-thirds of the 50 largest metropolitan areas had fewer young adults in 2000 than in 1990, according to the Census. These cities now realize that they’ve done little to appeal to the labor force that will shape their economic future: educated 25- to 34-year-olds.

"Cities are suddenly convinced that without them, their brain drain will continue. Employers will flock to hipper cities to attract this young labor force. Even worse, the dynamic businesses that young people create will start elsewhere. In the technological age, the importance of the educated and creative to the economy is magnified. If they flock to only a handful of cities, other cities risk falling behind.

"The youth message is getting through in cities where women and younger people have broken through leadership ranks. Young professionals are finding that they can be a big fish in a small pond-especially now that the old establishment is starting to take them seriously."

A Journal Star article October 11 talked about growing a knowledge economy by working with the companies that are already here and seeking companies. They want to come here. The plan is for Peoria to be the preferred Midwestern city for the biosciences by 2015. The power of collaboration and the Peoria NEXT initiative can certainly help meet that goal.

Only time will tell if the new history museum and renovated Sears block, an opera company, two ballet companies, a world-class symphony, a larger Civic Center, an energized Water Street and riverfront, the Peoria Pirates, Peoria Chiefs, Rivermen, and growth in East Peoria and central Illinois will be enough to attract and retain the needed talent.

Winston Churchill once said, "Sometimes doing our best is not good enough, we need to do what is required." So let’s all work together and do it. IBI

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