Ryan Ritchie: Embracing younger generations key to Indiana’s future

Keywords Viewpoint

The Generation Z and millennial populations are enigmas. The only ones who seem to truly understand these budding generations are those in them.

As a millennial myself, I must admit that I enjoy the jovial and humorous banter between older generations and ours, which has taken over the social media waves in recent years, showcasing differences in opinion on topics ranging from political ideology to what we eat—avocado toast, anyone?

From a workforce and economic development perspective, however, our differences are becoming increasingly important to recognize. As Generation X and baby boomers exit the workforce, individuals from younger generations have become a hot commodity for employers who are striving to fill open positions in an already competitive labor market. To maintain a competitive position in the nation and ensure long-term workforce stability, Hoosier leaders must seek to understand these generational differences and foster an atmosphere that attracts younger generations to live and work in Indiana.

State and local leaders need not reinvent the wheel to build such an environment across the state. In 2021, the Indiana Economic Development Corp. launched a program reminiscent of the 2015 Regional Cities initiative called the Regional Economic Acceleration Development Initiative—or READI, which allocated $500 million in grants to fund regional quality-of-place initiatives. Another round of READI funding in 2023 has the potential to further cultivate regional efforts to attract and retain workers of all generations through programs that promote concepts such as affordable housing development, arts and entertainment venues, and unique retail and dining establishments.

Additionally, the Legislature’s passage of proposals such as Senate Bill 338, which would exempt college graduates who choose to work in Indiana from the adjusted gross income tax for up to five years, has the potential to make Indiana more competitive in the fight to attract and retain workers. While these opportunities stem primarily from past proposals relevant to this conversation, the creation of a legislative study committee to further research and proactively identify ways in which we can remain competitive in attracting new Hoosiers to our state would also benefit Indiana’s efforts.

As a proud Hoosier and millennial, my hope is for Indiana to remain the vibrant, innovative and welcoming state that we are for many years to come. To do so, however, we must continue to be strategic and intentional in our workforce and economic development efforts.

Knowing many of our leaders on the federal, state and local levels, I am confident in our ability to come together to build a uniquely promising vision for the future of our great state. After all, we are known for our Hoosier hospitality.•

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Ritchie is director of government relations at RJL Solutions.

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