Against the Freebies – VA Beach Official: “Move to Norfolk.” Amazing…

Posted On April 1, 2016

Unsure whether to convert your workplace to a more millennial-friendly space or avoid the expense and stick with the tried and true? Virginia Beach knows how you feel.

According to a recent story in the Virginian-Pilot, efforts have been underway in the Hampton Roads, Va., area — which includes Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Newport News in southern Virginia — to enhance public transit, including light rail. It makes sense, since Virginia Beach has one of the highest percentages of residents between 20 and 29 of any city in the nation, and data tells us that public transit is important to many millennials.

The Virginian-Pilot cited data from the Rockefeller Foundation, which found that two-thirds of millennials have high-quality transportation in their top three concerns when choosing a place to live, and three-fourths hope to not need a car.

Virginia Beach City Treasurer John Atkinson isn’t hearing that, though. Atkinson is leading a grassroots effort to kill a planned light rail extension from Norfolk into Virginia Beach, and he’s using the stereotyped image of the “entitled millennial” to make his case.

“Those who want a freebie,” he told the Virginian-Pilot, “can move to Norfolk.”

Atkinson is concerned with the cost and believes Virginia Beach isn’t ideally set up for wide use of mass transit. The high percentage of millennials in the area may be misleading, as well, as there is a high concentration of military personnel in the Hampton Roads area at naval bases in Virginia Beach and Norfolk.

But Atkinson, most certainly not a millennial since he’s been in office since 1978, is ignoring a few things with his “freebie” comment – the first being that most mass transit isn’t free. Riders typically do have to pay to use it, though the cost is often minimal.

And there are other advantages to mass transit that should be considered, like decreased traffic congestion and reduced carbon emissions.

But if Atkinson were thinking like a business owner, his main concern might be that too many millennials will take him up on his offer. While much of Virginia Beach’s twenty-something population didn’t come there by choice – they’re stationed there in the Navy — resistance to millennial ideals like public transportation could drive many non-military young people away as well.

And if young people move elsewhere, the city becomes stale, the workforce aging, the influx of new talent dried up.

Whether millennials go or stay won’t likely hinge on one thing like a light rail line. But a dismissive attitude from city officials could have the same effect as an office manager who clings too tightly to cubicles and rigid schedules – a message to millennials that they might be better off looking elsewhere.

Categories: Generation Y / Millennials, Workplace