Tallahassee Democrat: FSU students seek advice on efforts to retain recent graduates
Tallahassee City Commissioner Curtis Richardson said he was shocked to learn 70 percent of recent college graduates in Nashville remain in the area after graduation.
Part of that is Nashville’s success in branding itself as “Music City,” but that is coupled with economic development that spurs job creation and opportunities for young people.
“We haven’t totally agreed on a vision for Tallahassee, but we’re getting there,” Richardson said. “I believe young people can add a lot to this community. We’ve got to bring in young people with a fresh set of eyes.”
Richardson was part of a panel elected officials, community leaders and business executives Friday at City Hall for a discussion on efforts to make it more attractive for college graduates to stay in Tallahassee once they graduate.
The forum was sponsored by students enrolled in Florida State University’s Master of Applied American Politics and Policy program. The major is popular with students eager to get practical experience as they prepare for jobs in state government, politics and related fields.
The topic is one that has been tackled for years in Tallahassee, where more than 60,000 students attend college. Government, business and higher education leaders have been unified in their efforts to find solutions to reverse the “brain drain” when students leave Tallahassee for greater opportunities elsewhere.
Panelists touched on familiar subjects such as creating new jobs, encouraging affordable housing, increasing entertainment options and promoting Tallahassee’s values.
Skip Foster, president and publisher of the Tallahassee Democrat, said Tallahassee could curb the exodus by focusing on what makes Tallahassee special and by moving forward with fresh economic development opportunities.
This would help young people see what differentiates Tallahassee from the economic sprawl associated with cities like Orlando.
“I would say we have tilted too far away from what would lead us to growth,” Foster said. “I’m obsessed about the opportunity to build an economy around our university research community.”
Foster pointed to Tallahassee as the home of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, one of the world’s most important advanced research centers.
He said there should be a display on the Mag Lab prominently placed at the airport to greet travelers about something special in Tallahassee.
“Tallahassee is the most educated community in the state of Florida,” said U.S. Rep. Al Lawson Jr., who was among the panelists. “This is a great place to be. We just need to highlight it.”
Leon County Commission Chairman John Dailey suggested Tallahassee offers untapped potential for start-up technologies, including the development of smartphone apps that could be embraced by the city’s built-in network of lobbyists, government, and associations.
“We don’t partner enough with our universities to create new jobs, new things," he said.
For the most part, panelists agreed Tallahassee is successfully addressing the age-old mantra that there’s nothing to do in the capital city.
Panelists repeatedly mentioned Midtown, College Town, the excitement created on Gaines Street, the downtown events during college football season. Others said Tallahassee equally offers a plethora activities for the outdoor-minded a bustling parks and recreation schedule, walking and biking trails, Cascades Park.
Another critical area was networking, getting young people involved in environments where they can learn what job opportunities Tallahassee offers and meet mentors interested in hearing that they have to offer.
Berneice Cox, president of The Bacall Group and director of the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce’s Talent Initiative, said the organization is expanding its Tally Job Hop, focused on connecting college students with business in Tallahassee and nationally.
Cox said she believes in the business community the feeling is Tallahassee “welcomes” college students.
Brittany Mukadam, president of Tallahassee Network of Young Professionals, said the organization has grown to 300 members.
“The No. 1 thing NYP provides is a social network,” said Mukadam, communications manager at Tri-Eagle Sales.
She said the majority of members are employed in government, education and medical fields.
She said she there’s a greater need to highlight the successful businesses in Tallahassee are having in employing local college graduates.
For instance, Danfoss Turbocor has retained 50 young professionals from the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, she said.
“We could improve in bringing larger companies here and (by) highlighting the larger companies that are here,” she said.