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Are the Millennials Driving Downtown Corporate Relocations?

In spite of the U.S. Census data for the past decade showing continued job de-centralization, there is now much anecdotal evidence for the just the opposite. The Chicago Crain’s Business Journal reports that companies such as Allstate, Motorola, AT&T, GE Capital, and even Sears are re-considering their fringe suburban locations, generally in stand alone campuses, and may head back to downtown Chicago. The irony of Sears possibly moving back to downtown could not be greater, having abandoned the country’s tallest building for an equally huge, though horizontal, building 45 miles from the Loop over 20 years ago.

The New York Times has been reporting this week that UBS, the huge Swiss banking firm, is considering moving their U.S. headquarters back into New York City, possibly to the next World Trade Center building, from Stamford, Connecticut. Even downtown Detroit, the basket case of American downtowns, has seen four major corporate arrivals in recent years … most recently the headquarters of the parent company of Quicken Loans.

The reason in nearly every case? The millennial generation is demanding it. Highly-educated young workers, the life’s blood of many industries, have been flocking to center cities in recent years. Trying to recruit this talent to Stamford, Conn., or Hoffman Estates, Ill. is exceedingly difficult. They are voting with their feet for a hip, high-density walkable lifestyle and a reverse commute to the ‘burbs is not in the cards for most of them.

The companies moved out to the suburbs to attract their baby boomer parents, raising their kids in suburban isolation. The millenials are doing what many generations have done in the past; they have rejected how they were raised. This once again shows that building a high quality residential base will lead to the attraction of jobs…only this time it is back to the future.