‘Youth Flight’ Study by Business Council Reveals Westchester Competes Strongly with New York City by Offering Young Adults Best of Urban and Suburban Living

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White Plains Viewed by Many Young Professionals as Ideal Place to Live

Do young adults like living in Westchester County? The answer may surprise you, according to a revealing new study on “youth flight” released today by The Business Council of Westchester.

Contrary to popular belief that many young professionals in Westchester would prefer living in New York City, the study showed that the county is viewed favorably by young adults who enjoy the downtown nightlife, quality public transportation, outstanding colleges, universities and public schools and an abundance of parks.

The study involved a series of focus groups conducted last month among young professionals and college students in Westchester. The study is an outgrowth of the ongoing work of the Westchester Coalition for Business Development, an organization of influential leaders in business and education established in 2010 by the Business Council to develop strategies for attracting and retaining businesses in Westchester.

Downtown White Plains was singled out by many of those in the focus groups as the ideal place to live in Westchester. White Plains scored high on nightlife, restaurants, family activities, ease of commute to Manhattan, recreation and entertainment; professional networking and diversity. White Plains, according to the focus groups, is an excellent “walking city” that offers young adults a great balance of urban and suburban life. Other communities that scored high with young adults were: Katonah and Purchase for the arts; Scarsdale and Rye for schools; Yonkers for the waterfront and Port Chester for restaurants.

“This study offers valuable insight into one of the vexing issues facing Westchester: how does the county attract and retain young people as residents,” said Marsha Gordon, President and CEO of The Business Council of Westchester. “We were pleasantly surprised to see how well Westchester fared with young people as a desirable place to live even when compared to New York City. However, we need to address the issues and concerns raised in this study so we can ensure that our young professionals remain here,” she added.

Among the conclusions of the study are:

  •     There is a strong desire by young professionals to stay in Westchester provided that there are employment opportunities and housing they can afford.
  •     Despite the prolonged recession, Westchester remains a desirable place to live for young adults due to its high quality of life particularly in its downtowns.
  •     Westchester’s main competition for young people are the areas in the tri-state region with more affordable housing and lower taxes.
  •     If young adults choose to leave Westchester for another tri-state area to establish their first household it will probably be due to the county’s unacceptably high property taxes.

The study also provided insightful recommendations on what can be done to keep young people from leaving the county.

  •     Build more mixed-used development such as Downtown White Plains where housing, retail and mass transit are available in one location.
  •     Enact a tax rebate program that would help young people afford to live in the county. The rebate would be on the first five years of a mortgage.
  •     Improve utilization of parkland to include dog runs and bike paths which are popular socialization venues for young people.
  •     Permit more cell towers on county property in order to generate revenue as well as improve cell phone service, particularly in the northern half of the county.
  •     Create a consortium of all Westchester colleges and universities which would provide young professionals with access to employment, internship and mentoring opportunities.
  •     Develop a website and phone app that would be a one-stop source of information on all events, programs and services in Westchester attractive to young adults.
  •     When asked what they liked least about living in Westchester, those in the focus groups cited the high cost of housing and property taxes.

The focus groups were conducted for the Business Council by Kraft Foods, a member company. Westchester residents, employees and local college upperclassman – under 35 years of age - participated in this qualitative research study conducted in February 2012.

As a result of the Youth Flight study, the Business Council and the Coalition for Business Development will implement the following action steps:

  •     Launch a campaign to educate the public on the benefits of creating downtown hubs that incorporate retail office space and residential around already existing transportation hubs.
  •     Continue to work with government at all levels to oppose legislation that stifles economic growth and job creation, and fight for necessary changes to existing laws to encourage business development.
  •     Partner with ArtsWestchester to expand its website to communicate additional activities for young adults in Westchester.
  •     The Village of Ossining will become a pilot community for this study with the goal of attracting young professionals by learning best practices of other youth-oriented communities and establishing a task force comprised of young adults to provide input.
  •     Work with Friends of Westchester Parks to develop more youth focused attractive parkland.
  •     Continue the Coalition’s work in partnership with the Workforce Investment Board to create an Internship Clearinghouse connecting local students with internship, mentoring and job opportunities at Westchester businesses.

Last year, the Westchester Coalition for Business Development issued a major report on action steps to help build and strengthen Westchester’s new economic development structure. Among the key issues identified by the Coalition to promote economic development was the need stop the flight of youth from Westchester by creating an environment where it is attractive for young professionals to grow their careers and their personal lives.

“Overall, Westchester needs to better market its attributes to young people starting at the high school and college level. There are many excellent recommendations in this study that the Coalition will explore further such as our plans to develop an internship clearinghouse for young professionals,” said Tim Jones, Chairman of the Westchester Coalition for Business Development. “In addition, we plan to reach out to the mayors of Westchester’s cities to review these results and discuss how they can make their downtowns even more appealing to our young people,” he added.

About The Business Council of Westchester
The county’s largest and most influential business membership organization, The Business Council of Westchester is committed to helping businesses market, learn, advocate and grow. In addition, The Business Council of Westchester is actively involved in reviewing federal, state and county legislation and regulations in order to assess the potential impact on the business community and to influence the outcomes through advocacy when the business community’s interests may be affected. It also acts as an information resource for the business community and government leaders at all levels.

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Dean Bender
Thompson & Bender
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