Generation Lost

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Cheyenne, WY(KGWN) - Cheyenne is growing. The population is increasing, but the number of young professionals in their 20''s and 30's living in the city has hit a plateau. Instead, the number of commuters is on the rise. Since 1990, the number of commuters coming from other Wyoming counties, Nebraska, and Colorado has tripled. And the biggest increase is from people living in Northern Colorado counties.

That increase in commuters is also lending itself to another upward trend, amount of money leaving Laramie County. In 2011, more than 120,000 dollars in earning left the county.

Annie Wood with Cheyenne LEADS says the jobs are here, and they're being filled, "but the individuals filling these jobs are choosing not to live here."

The jobs they're taking are a new niche market for Cheyenne, the technology sector. Green House Data, EchoStar, Microsoft, these companies chose Cheyenne for their data centers because of the city's climate and Wyoming's business friendly atmosphere.

But Green House Data CEO Shawn Mills says 10 percent of his employees commute from Colorado, and that attracting educated, qualified employees can be hard because Cheyenne doesn't offer the lifestyle they're looking for.

It seems that the young professionals are spending more of their time and
money in popular Northern Colorado cities like Fort Collins. With a major college in the city and a proximity to Denver, it's become a destination spot for the younger Cheyenne residents.

Jake Byrd is a 20-year-old Cheyenne native and concert promoter who says he spends most of his weekends in Fort Collins. "I can just go, park my car, get out and walk around and find something to do inevitably," said Byrd.

City Planning Services Director Matt Ashby says his office is like a revolving door for young professionals who stay in Cheyenne for a couple of years, then pursue opportunities in bigger cities that have more of the amenities they look for. "That nightlife, culture, arts, those are the things they want to do," said Ashby. And Cheyenne doesn't have that right now.

Down the line, with an unstable young population, Ashby says leadership roles in the city are being left empty. "I think we're starting to see some of our volunteer organizations hurt because the people who want to step down and take time off can't yet."

But it's not just up to community leaders to fix the problem.

"Everyone says they're bored but when there are things to do they don't show up," said Byrd.

"I think their voices aren't being heard as forcefully in community discussion," said Ashby.

And Wood says LEADS is trying to "connect the dots" to create buzz and momentum to find out how to fix the problem and retain more young people.

But it will be a long process and take the collaboration of organizations like LEADS, the City, and most importantly, the young professionals.


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