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Moving forward with a sense of purpose

Eric Shaver

Eric Shaver

In last month’s column, “Learning from the past to enhance the future,” I discussed a number of results from the 2008 Next Leaders Survey, which was conducted on behalf of the Boise Young Professionals. BYP commissioned a survey update to gauge how well our organization is meeting our mission two years later, along with identifying perceptions about our community.

This month I’ll examine results from the latest survey, compare them to the previous one and discuss possible avenues forward.

The 2010 survey was completed by 220 young professionals, of which 65 percent were BYP members. Respondents were well-educated (82 percent had at least a four-year degree), mobile (66 percent did not have children) and civic-minded (95 percent are registered voters; 73 percent voted in the previous election).

The top three employment industries include finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing (21 percent), professional, scientific and technical services (16 percent), and public administration (8 percent). Each of these findings, not including sample size (2008 survey = 359 respondents), are similar to the previous survey.

The majority (62 percent) consisted of “transplants,” followed by “boomerangers” (raised in Idaho, left, and moved back, 21 percent) and “lifers” (17 percent). Also, more than half (67 percent) own homes.

Overall, respondents had a “very positive” perception of Boise’s quality of life (62 percent). Thus, it comes as no surprise that more than half (54 percent) intend to remain in the area for at least 10 years. Besides “boomerangers” and “lifers” changing in order based on percentage (19 percent and 22 percent, respectively, in 2008), these findings are similar to the previous survey.

Respondents were asked to provide percentage ratings for two questions on seven community indexes: (1) “How important are these amenities to you (Value)?” and (2) “How well does your community provide these amenities (Perception)?” Only two indices will be discussed in this column.

The “cost of lifestyle” index examined the statement, “I want a community where I can afford to live, work, and play.” They reported a value of 94 percent, with their perception that our community achieved it at 81 percent. This is a 5 percentage point increase in perception compared to the 2008 survey.

The “earning” index assessed the statement, “I want a broad choice of places to work and an environment that is friendly to entrepreneurs.” They reported a value of 98 percent, with their perception that our community achieved it at 39 percent. This is an 18 percentage point decrease in perception compared to the 2008 survey.

What salient points can be gleaned from these results? First, and foremost, young professionals are disillusioned with the earning potential in our community. This isn’t a surprising finding given that we’re 30 months into the Great Recession, along with being one of the worst performing metro areas in the Intermountain West, according to a recently published Brookings Mountain West Mountain Monitor.

But, the upside is that according to our survey results, young professionals believe our community has a reasonable cost of lifestyle, a great quality of life, and intend to remain in the area for the foreseeable future. Of course, that will only bear out if there are high-paying jobs that allow them to remain.

So what is the way forward? Organizations like BYP will continue doing our part to attract, develop and retain a talented workforce. But, there’s only so much a nonprofit can do. Ultimately, it will take a concerted effort of like-minded individuals, organizations, businesses, government, etc., “pushing” in the same direction to surmount our current economic hurdles.

We’re at a crossroads in our community. While our current predicament is challenging, it also provides us a unique opportunity to identify and pursue a new path of sustainable economic growth.

Eric Shaver is a senior consultant with Benchmark Research & Safety, Inc., a human factors and ergonomics consulting firm, and blogs at The Human Factor Advocate (www.thehumanfactorblog.com). He is also the chair of the Community & Civic Involvement work team for the Boise Young Professionals.

About Eric Shaver