CO-WORKING spaces and maker spaces are two items that can help engage millennials, and both are under development in Aberdeen.
The Aberdeen Development Corp. is in the process of creating a co-working space, called The Workshop, which is slated to open in October. And businessman Travis Kiefer is working on a maker space.
Kiefer said the maker space is almost finished. Essentially, he said, members will have access to the workshop he’s created for Ease at the Citizen’s Building. It’s designed as a place where entrepreneurs can take their ideas and develop product prototypes using a 3-D printer.
When it comes to having a community open to millennials, Kiefer said, Aberdeen doesn’t have the welcoming atmosphere for entrepreneurs. His comparison is the Silicon Valley in California.
“The area caters to millennials,” he said. “That’s a place that’s doing a really phenomenal job.”
In Aberdeen, he said, it’s more difficult to connect. Kiefer said millennials are willing to try new business ideas that might be risky, but local finance companies are hesitant to make risky investments. He believes the local development of co-working and maker spaces is part of the solution to engaging millennial entrepreneurs.
Liz Hannum, organizer of StartHUB in Aberdeen, also notes a hesitancy to invest in young entrepreneurs. But she has high hopes for the entrepreneur group.
“I hope we can be the place people go to start things,” she said. “I really want people to do offshoot events.”
City officials, however, are less clear on the best ways to engage the millennial population.
“I don’t have an answer or silver bullet,” City Manager Lynn Lander said.
The city has used surveys, letters, mailings and public notices to keep the public informed. Lander said his goal is to reach as many people as possible, but he doesn’t focus on tapping any one specific age group.
The police department has been using Facebook and has been successful in engaging the public. Police Capt. Eric Duven said the majority of those connected through Facebook are 22 to 34 years old. The police department also uses the MyPD App, he said, which has increased the number of younger followers on social media.
It is a time commitment to monitor social media traffic and respond to private messages, Duven said.
Lander said that time commitment makes it difficult for other city departments to also use social media platforms. He admits social media changes are generational, but Facebook is connecting more than just millennials.
Councilwoman Jennifer Slaight-Hansen has used Facebook and Twitter as a way to get feedback on issues the council discusses. It started as an experiment, she said. As she’s gotten feedback, she’s increased her social media presence.
“I thought I would be connecting with younger people,” she said. “People who don’t read the newspaper or connect. I haven’t found that to be the case as much.”
Groups like the Aberdeen Area Chamber of Commerce are also working on engaging young professionals. Chamber President Gail Ochs said young professionals can join the chamber’s diplomat committee. The group works to recruit and retain members and learn about leadership opportunities.
The chamber is also working with StartHUB on bringing programs to Aberdeen. One option is TEDx event in 2017, Ochs said.
Two TEDx events are planned at the Alexander Mitchell Public Library this fall. Cara Romeo, assistant library director and community services librarian, said she has a license to host up to four events. The library sessions were not organized through discussion with the chamber, she said. They are at 7 p.m. Oct. 13 and Nov. 10. Registration is not required.
TEDx is a topic-based community conversation where information is presented and attendees have an opportunity to discuss it, Romeo said.