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Generational shift

Millennials are killing this. Millennials aren’t buying that. They’re rude, whiny and entitled, if the talking heads are to be believed. Heads buried in phones, oblivious to the world — they’re so self-absorbed, right? They don’t vote, they don’t serve on nonprofit boards and chances are they’re not reading this editorial right now (at least not in print).

The millennial generation is roughly defined as people born between 1982 and 2000 (depending on who you ask). It’s kind of an artificial and hollow generalization that’s used for the sake of demographics. It’s also a conveniently lazy way to stereotype people between approximately 18 and 38 years old.

So-called millennials make up about a quarter of the world’s population. Sometime in the early ’90s, the “millennial” generation overtook baby boomers and Generation X as the largest population on the planet. Post-millenials, the kids coming of age now, are still growing as a generation.

Despite many carrying significant debt, and facing stagnant wages in many sectors, millennials are gaining buying power in the U.S. economy. It’s a market that the savviest companies are dying to tap into.

So how does all that apply to Beaufort County?

On the younger end of the spectrum, people in their early- to mid-20s: what kind of jobs and educational opportunities do we offer that can help them jump start a career? Where can they afford to live? What kind of fun and interesting activities can a young 20-something do here?

On the older end, late 20s into the 30s, people are becoming more established. They’re thinking of home ownership, marriage, kids and making a life in a good place. We’ve got a lot of options in those regards, and we should play to them. Why is Beaufort County a good place to live a life and raise a family?

There are plenty of answers to these questions, some of which are very compelling. There is no doubt that this place has a lot to offer young people. We just need to think about what those things are and find a way to get that message to the next generation — those who might move here and those who have been here their whole lives.

If you are between the ages of 18 and 38, or even younger, now is the time to step up, get involved and find opportunities for public service and leadership in the community. The Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce has a Young Professionals group that is a great place to start. Likewise, civic groups throughout the county would undoubtedly welcome young, energetic members.

For the older generations, a few gentle reminders. Please drop the stereotypes — they only make the generation gap wider. If you’re a business owner, do your best to pay young people a decent wage. It can go a long way, and someone might just settle down here with a family. Finally, embrace the vigor and fresh ideas that younger people bring to the table. You might just be surprised how much they can contribute to a community.