Blog: Kat Owsley

Kathleen Owsley is the Director of One D, a collaborative initiative seeking to transform regional Detroit. She has been the VP of Market Development for the Detroit Regional Chamber, VP of Public/Private Partnerships for Issue Media Group and is a graduate of Kalamazoo College. Kat will be writing about One D, what it is and, more importantly, what it hopes to accomplish.

Post No. 2

Millennials: The Holy Grail of Demographics

I was sitting in a board of directors strategic planning meeting last week for the Michigan Society of Association Executives and we were talking about things we need to be aiming for as an organization, objectives, goals, etc.

I was talking about data. If our data showed definitively what we all suspect--that many of our active members are within earshot of retirement--then we probably need to be talking about how to make membership attractive to the millennials. 


Everyone seems obsessed with them: attracting millennials to the region, keeping college students here after graduation---there’s even a new Young Professionals track at the Mackinac Policy Conference this year. I marvel about how wanted millennials must feel.  

Anyhow, there are two things that strike me in particular about the millenials and the work that we are measuring and tracking with One D.  

First, as it relates to our Race Relations priority, I have been obsessing about what kind of survey results we would get if we developed a race relations perception survey and divided the responses by "under 25" and "over 50". 

I maintain that if you survey people from the region (an appropriate sample size spread among the region geographically and representative of our racial make-up) and ask about status of race relations, levels of interaction, integration, comfort level, etc. you would find a significant difference in the responses. It seems like younger people are more relaxed talking about race and are more apt to be interactive. And to take that one step further, if that is the case, that’s one more reason why this is a desirable group of people to attract to or keep in the region.  The larger the influx of this group, the more improvements you would see in race relations in the region.

Not everyone agrees with me. In fact, one of my bosses disagrees with me. They maintain that it’s institutional. That by going through school and work in this region the divisiveness is enforced and the status quo reigns. I’m curious to hear about how others view this issue.  

Second, I was talking to Kerry Doman, of After Five, the other day about how everyone is obsessing about people her age and we were talking about the Quality of Life priority. 

The One D vision for quality of life centers around arts and culture, parks, greenspaces and healthcare. That seemed pretty representative to me until I spoke with Kerry. She immediately said that if she was asked what Qualify of Life meant to her, she would think of a rich and lively after five (no pun intended) scene--lots of places to go, things to do, people engaging in a lively night life.  

I found this interesting. Quality of Life is pretty subjective for all of us, I guess.    But if we are putting a lot of stock in the millennial population keeping our region healthy, vibrant and growing, I wonder if we need to tweak how we look at this as One D and as a region to coincide with the other goals we have on attracting and retaining this "holy grail" of demographics.

Until tomorrow!