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Retaining Talent

What Sacramento can learn from Nashville’s investment in its young professionals

Back Commentary Nov 14, 2014 By Emilie Cameron

Recently I had the opportunity to join 100 local business, nonprofit and public sector leaders on a four-day journey to Nashville, Tenn. to discover how this boot-scootin, honky-tonk city is thriving. Nashville has an identity no one can deny, and one this country girl couldn’t get enough of. But, let me tell you, it is so much more than a music town. Nashville is a thriving hub for business and forward thinking.

Walking away from Nashville, it’s clear why young professionals matter for a community; how a community can help them thrive; and how these can result in a community that is a flourishing place to live, work and play. A recent ranking from the New York Times places Nashville as one of the top cities in the nation where young college graduates are choosing to live. So, what are they doing right?

How a community can help young professionals to thrive

Viewed as a talent retention initiative, Nashville’s business community strongly believes young professionals are a critical component of their workforce and are vital in building the region’s reputation as one of the best places in the country to live and work. 

Like a business without succession planning, forethought and innovation, a community can quickly lose its luster. Just over a decade ago, Nashville’s business community realized three key things:

  • The long-term prosperity of the region is reliant on attracting and retaining a strong representation of young professionals in the workforce.
  • An environment where young professionals get engaged and connected is important to community building.
  • A diverse economy will attract young, high-quality workers in all business sectors, and smart companies follow smart people.

Understanding that a strong network for young professionals was a top priority for its business leaders, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce created a position in its organization devoted to talent retention and attraction. Concurrently, area young professional organizations began meeting to share ideas and opportunities. In 2005, realizing the value of collaboration, the NACC partnered with these organizations. Today the network offers community-wide programs and opportunities for young professionals across Tennessee, including a one-stop website, a series of networking events, an annual mayoral forum, and the Nashville Emerging Leader Awards.

Today, a much larger collaboration of nearly 60 young professional organizations in the Nashville area gather several times each year to share ideas and the business community provides support and leadership to young professionals on a broader scale. As a result, Nashville is engaging, connecting and empowering young professionals to actively shape the future of the their region — and more importantly, stick around to see the results.

How can Sacramento be a flourishing place for young professionals?

Nashville recognized the power of collaboration and leadership. We have the opportunity to capitalize on the same principles locally.

Locally, a network of young professional leaders already meet regularly to share ideas and resources. Top-tier leaders from the business community are beginning to recognize the value young professionals bring. Education and business leaders are also beginning to develop and enhance career pathway programs to make our region competitive well into the future. The Sacramento Metro Chamber is supporting activities that target young professionals. Many local cities and chambers now host leadership programs to connect the next generation of business leadership with the resources they need to be successful. But, we still have a ways to go if we want to compete with thriving cities like Denver, Philadelphia and Nashville.

When it comes to attracting a young workforce, top selling points are professional opportunities and quality of life. This spans education, jobs, housing, mass transit and yes, networking. Young professionals want to be part of the fabric of a community.

It’s time to focus our efforts, collaborate and demonstrate that Sacramento is the best place in the country to be a young professional.

How can we do this? Engage young professionals, bring them into the conversation and empower them to lead. Cities across the country have ramped up their investment in young professionals as an economic development tool. Now it’s our turn.

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