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Consultant advises Wichita on wooing young adults

Wichita is an inexpensive city to live in, but it presents problems — some real, some imagined — for young adults.

That's the word delivered Monday evening at the Orpheum Theatre by consultant Rebecca Ryan, hired to analyze how Wichita can better retain and attract educated young adults.

She gave a report to members of Young Professionals of Wichita, which commissioned the study.

Over the last decade, Wichita has lost population between the ages of 25 and 40. Those who leave tend to be the best educated and best able to get jobs anywhere, she said.

Keeping and attracting educated young adults makes a city grow, she said. Losing them hurts a city.

"If we don't put in time and effort to keep our young talent in Wichita, they're going to leave," Rick Griffin, an attorney and chairman of the YPW board, told the audience.

The analysis showed some strengths, weaknesses and places to improve.

A strength is that Wichita is less expensive than peer cities, said Ryan.

One problem is that people are unhappy with recreation and parks, and the ability to ride bikes. The parks aren't well-connected, and bike paths encourage pleasure riding but not commuting.

Another problem is a sense that the local economy doesn't provide enough professional jobs outside of manufacturing.

Ryan ended the analysis with a call to action, saying that baby boomers must hang on a little longer, while the younger generations must step up to take leadership for the future.

Recommendations:

* Create an online career portal that advertises the variety of professional jobs available.

* Create an organization at the college level that connects to the YPW group to connect college students to the adult world.

* Develop a tightly knit and supportive culture for interns.

* Support the development of downtown, because downtowns attract young people.

* Improve public transit, possibly by switching to a grid system from the current hub-and-spoke system.

* Create a central Web portal to publicize cultural, recreational and entertainment events — and keep it updated.

* Develop a brand for marketing the city as the Air Capital to show Wichita as sophisticated.

* Market Wichita to itself to sell locals on the positives.

* Market Wichita outside to attract people in.

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