When I graduated college a year ago, I was staring down the barrel of an economic recession with bleak unemployment rates. This meant my college degree was not the golden ticket to prosperity high school guidance counselors made it out to be. According to the Pew Research center, more than 8 in 10 people agree finding a job today is harder than it was for their parents’ generation. A while back NPR aired a segment on how adulthood is changing for the millennial generation. I caught an interesting quote from that discussion, “Maybe we’re picking having job satisfaction over job security and deferring earning potential.” According to Hannah Seligson, journalist and author of the book, “Mission Adulthood,” the millennial generation is reimagining the American dream.
Lower earning potential means traditional staples of the American Dream like suburban homes, children, and new cars are no longer attainable. Seligson believes the millennial generation is special because they are diverse, innovative, entrepreneurial and living through “seismic social and political changes.” Yet, entrepreneurship often involves a large economic investment in itself. The number of entrepreneurial dreams that die due to lack of opportunity are incalculable.
Northside UP has imagined a business incubator concept that would offer entrepreneurs steady employment and education to help them realize their dreams of business ownership. In order to help inform the creation of the incubator, I have been meeting with entrepreneurs; so many of them fit Seligson’s definition. Many of them left jobs they were not satisfied with for one reason or another. Rather than accepting the first acceptable pay check, they are investing energy in the fabric of their neighborhoods. They are making connections and lifting one another up. They are not searching for better surroundings; they are simply building them.
With a business incubator, the Northside can become the nexus of reimagined American Dreams. Roughly 24% of the Northside’s population belongs to the millennial generation (American Community Survey 2010). Here, young entrepreneurs merge fresh ideas with the talents and knowledge refugees bring from around the world. Harsh economic conditions may have forced the millennial generation to re-dream, but these emerging adults have gained a new understanding of the importance of building relationships, reducing waste, and making the most of little. Imagine what these new dreams can mean for Syracuse with the right support. Imagine how we can change the city instead of letting it alter us.