The Price of Pandering to Millennials

The term “millennials” has been used a lot in the last couple of years in what is presented as deliberative discussion about the future of Scottsdale with regard to economic development, housing, and transportation. Many important decisions theoretically relied on these deliberations in arriving at–for example–the erosion of Scottsdale’s traditionally high development standards in favor of high-density housing projects, and in perpetuating the discussion about light rail in Scottsdale.

First, the term “millennials” applies to young adults who are now between the ages of 18 and 34. So, younger than those in “Generation X,” which came after the post-WWII “baby boomers.” And I may have missed a sub-category or two between those.

Second, I’ve touched on this demographic in previous ScottsdaleTrails articles.

A sharp-eyed ST reader alerted me to an article by Bruce Horovitz in USA Today last week entitled, “Millennials crave convenience stores most of all.” Horovitz dispels some of the myth of the economic importance of millennials, quoting Harry Balzer, chief food industry analyst at NPD Group:

Millennials are cheap — they’re no different from anyone else. What we mostly do in our lives is get food as fuel — we don’t usually go out for exciting eating adventures.

In looking on the USA Today website for that article, I ran across another recent article about millennial automotive preferences by Greg Gardner from the Detroit Free Press, “Millennials want their cars“:

Millennials are more interested in driving and buying cars than much research has led automakers to believe, according to a new study MTV released…at the annual convention of the National Automobile Dealers Association.

I wouldn’t count MTV as a source of scholarly work, but they must have done a pretty good job of keeping in touch with their demographics in order to still be in business after so long.

And this is timely considering my analysis regarding the discussion about how much parking is needed in Downtown Scottsdale, which I posted earlier.

Another article from USA Today in November 2014 by Hadley Malcolm, “Millennials want to save, many can’t,” cites a survey done in conjunction with Bank of America:

[Millennials] think they’ll be at least as well off, if not more, than their parents — yet more than a third still receive financial support from family. They say they’re good at living within their means, but many are living paycheck to paycheck. And while this age group has prioritized reducing debt, many are unable to put away emergency savings simultaneously.

So, the question in my mind (which I’ve raised before) is, how much stock do we want to put in assertions about the economic importance of millennials by Scottsdale’s “economic development professionals,” zoning attorneys, real estate developers, and PR flacks?

City planners and elected officials would be foolish not to consider millennials in our planning, but they are equally foolish to ignore the fact that every decision should consider costs in addition to benefits. And we, the people, would be foolish not to understand that our current mayor and city council make decisions based on campaign contributions, not on what’s best for you and me. Developers and the liquor industry greatly outspend you and me.

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  1. I find it interesting you have posted this as I am trying to finish this book, Fast Future: How the Millennial Generation Is Shaping Our World by David D. Burstein. Now this is not a plug for the book, as the book seems to be pushing for something that has not happened in Scottsdale. I know our city council and its employees want to fall over themselves to meet the needs of these ‘millennials’ like they are the next great saviors of Scottsdale. I have to ask why?

    Look Scottsdale is NOT dead or on the brink of death. Oh we have the largest population of aging in place people. Oh dear! We are out doing or turning into Sun City! Yeah Sun City has evaporated right? Yes all those years Sun City just withered away right? Em, NO. All the young people who moved in just said – Oh no, the old people run away! NO. So what is this grand desire for the ‘millennial’ or nothing? The older people are not valuable or counted anymore. Hey, I am not a ‘millenial’, I think I am Generation X or something like that. So I don’t count? My sons are ‘millenials’ and they are more valuable than me? I have a house, they DON’T!

    Millhaven STILL will say ‘millennials want light rail, but that will take at least 30 years to put into place’ so why even bring that up? You want them here and you know they want that, but are telling them wait 30 years? What sort of daft plan is that? But hey infill the rest of the town to your heart’s content, nobody will mind right? Like I said to her ‘You can buy a postcard of Scottsdale with high density residential right?” She does not get it. They don’t get it.

    Millennials DON’T VOTE! No they do not. If they did, where are there votes? Please someone tell me the numbers. Show me the great turn out for the young voters. Well I am waiting. Everyone is waiting for that. But our city council just caters to these ‘millennials’ but the voters are NOT millennials. How odd right?

    PS – My wife and the younger ones are still in Scottsdale not the ‘millennial’ children, oops sorry Millihaven and crew you lost them. And by the way my wife and I vote ALL the time, my ‘millennial’ kids have to be prompted.

    1. As my friend Mike Kelly often says, “The language evolves to suite the argument.” Milhaven and her ilk will say whatever supports their goals, chief among them enriching their friends. She’s no Republican, regardless of her registration.

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