Seeing thousands of people on K Street after an event at Golden 1 Center, you get the sense that our community is finally realizing its potential.
When I moved back to my hometown eight years ago, Sacramento’s untapped possibilities were recognized by many. It has taken the tireless work of people from all over the demographic, political and industrial map to get us here, and the results speak for themselves. There is an excitement in Sacramento that even the most dubious skeptic can’t deny.
This momentum gives us the chance to articulate a contemporary narrative about what makes Sacramento great and why more people are choosing this community to build their lives and careers.
Telling our story effectively will require us to do something many cities struggle to accomplish: setting an agenda that involves the whole community, one that is designed to benefit everyone.
It is crucial that we take advantage of this opportunity by developing bold strategies and diverse coalitions that can leverage our region’s greatest assets and strengths.
Who is going to tell our story? This question is at the crux of any attempt to build on our successes and woo the people and businesses we need. We will have to utilize our ethnic diversity, empower new communities and be willing to take risks.
Our political and business leaders have made it clear that attracting millennials and entrepreneurs is the key to our economic future. Empowering underserved communities that have been left out of much of our strategic agenda-setting must be part of the equation.
We can include these neighborhoods by asking them what would fulfill their community’s needs, by asking what are their priorities and challenges. The Crocker Art Museum’s block by block initiative, which collaborated with three underserved communities and local artists to develop and implement art experiences, is one example of an institution working to expand its reach.
Making the effort to reach out is difficult, but not impossible. Despite the many events and public projects I’ve spearheaded or have been part of, Portal being one example, I have never produced marketing or digital content targeting the Spanish- or Hmong-speaking communities. This is indicative of an unintentional but nonetheless exclusionary blind spot that fails to incorporate the strength of others to help shape our region.
Young professionals and experienced leaders must work together, not in separate silos with one group in the streets and the other in the suites. Our generation can benefit from experienced perspectives; however, I think young professionals are best positioned to pitch this region authentically. It is important not to underestimate what can be achieved when decisions are made in concert with a shared agenda and vision.
As an example, let’s look at one of our region’s most well-funded and visible marketing vehicles: the Greater Sacramento Economic Council and its CEO Barry Broome. He recently launched a partnership with the Bay Area Council and is our most prominent advocate selling our region to businesses and millennials.
He has revisited a rather tired pitch, touting our region’s “Southern California weather for Midwest Prices.” I emailed him to get his thoughts on young professionals.
“We need young leaders to engage, but they have to be willing to do the heavy lifting, to be taken seriously,” he wrote in an email. “Being a cool cat on social media does not constitute you being engaged. We need young leaders to be selfless and shoulder burdens while taking on the hard issues.”
I asked about collaborating with older leadership; his response: “We need powerful young leaders who will challenge the old guard in our community. Millennials have been a real disappointment to me. It’s time for this new generation to be heard.”
For someone whose job it is to court millennials and the businesses that employ them, this doesn’t appear to be a productive perspective. It’s also not an accurate one. Perhaps he is unaware of the many engaged and powerful young leaders who have been changing our city’s landscape. Let me show you some receipts:
We have two millennials on the City Council: Steve Hansen and Eric Guerra. Mai Vang and Paula Villescaz are the youngest school board members ever elected in their districts. Allison Joy is the editor-in-chief of Comstock’s, our regional business magazine. Ali Youssefi and Bay Miry’s 700K project is transforming a critical block along K Street. In the tech space, Eric Ullrich and Gina Lujan have built the Hacker Lab into one of the most successful innovation and entrepreneurship hubs in the region. Mayor-elect Darrell Steinberg even chose a YP, Kelly Rivas, as his campaign manager.
Leveraging these young leaders and others is critical to our region’s strategy, and we are eager to take on the “hard issues” and breathe new energy into organizations that could benefit from our viewpoint.
Many leaders have invested in Broome’s vision; however, it is clear that to be successful it must be paired with input from millennials his organization is spending valuable capital to attract. There is no shortage of young people in Sacramento, and we are best positioned to articulate why this region is a great place for those like us.
Expressing confusion on how to reach us is no longer an excuse. It has to be incumbent on leaders to reach outside their familiar spheres and seek collaboration. If you see an event or project that young people are excited about, connect with those who organized it. Use them and their networks to further your own efforts. Better yet, hire them.
Many of our leaders get it. Trish Rodriguez, the incoming chair of the Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce, and Larry Burkhardt, the director of Sacramento’s Department of Economic Development, come to mind. We need these and others to use their clout to bring established and emerging leaders together.
Recently the New York-based marketing firm DCI was hired to create and distribute a narrative for the region. Using Golden 1 Center as a hook, we have an opportunity to craft an authentic and thrilling portrait that leverages the breadth and depth of the region’s positive attributes.
We can give people around the country a fresh look at what makes Sacramento unique while we have their attention. This is a perfect time to incorporate young professionals and new perspectives into the tapestry of our city’s voice.
Tre Borden is a consultant, entrepreneur and art enthusiast. He was named this year’s Young Professional of the Year by the Sacramento Metro Chamber. Visit his website treborden.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.