Five Ways to Attract Gen Z to Tampa

"Better marketing and more innovation are among the keys."

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Tampa is one of the hottest cities for millennial entrepreneurs, but there’s a key step to take next: Recruit Gen Z to boost the momentum.

These are the 20-something college juniors and seniors who saw the first iPhones as toddlers and don’t know a world without the Internet or social media. With Gen Z already responsible for $143 billion in spending, their insights and fast-paced skills will become invaluable to businesses.

Tampa Bay’s startup scene is now a $450 million industry, as more entrepreneurs and millennials move here for the good weather, affordability and culture. By 2027, Tampa Bay Lightning owner and investor Jeff Vinik estimates over 30,000 people will live downtown, tripling the current population.

As a millennial entrepreneur myself, this new energy drew me back to Tampa after college. But to keep this growth going, we must diminish the talent gap. The competition is stiff. The Tampa Bay metro area placed 13 out of 20 peer cities in attracting 25- to 34-year-olds, according to the latest regional competitiveness report from the Tampa Bay Partnership. Here are five ways our business community can step up to attract new talent.

1. Spread the good news.
We must create a stronger marketing brand for the Tampa Bay region, so college students hear about exciting things happening. Organizations like the Tampa Downtown Partnership are playing a key role with their Instagram, showcasing vibrant events and experiences downtown. Tampa entrepreneurs must also promote their business culture online, as 40 percent of Generation Z checks YouTube and 37 percent Instagram to research companies.

2. Use millennials to recruit Gen Z.
But studies show the top way Gen Z finds jobs is asking someone they already know who works at the company. Tampa’s startups must use millennial employees to mentor recruits. Make them aware of job openings and consider an employee referral program as an incentive.

3. Boost partnerships with universities.
Nashville’s startup success is tied to Vanderbilt University’s Accelerator that connects students to local companies. With the University of South Florida and University of Tampa, partnership opportunities are endless. One example is ReliaQuest, which committed $1 million to USF to train students in cybersecurity – one of Tampa’s fastest growing markets.

4. Grow the Job Market.
Tampa has an impressive collection of incubators and resources for entrepreneurs, including Tampa Bay Wave, Embarc Collective, Urban Tech, and Synapse to name a few. These programs will have an immense impact on creating jobs for Gen Z over the next decade.

5. Keep innovating.
Companies that seek out new technologies to streamline workplace demands will stand out. According to Forbes, college grads are turned off by antiquated process in task management and reporting. Gen Z is set to become the most educated generation. In 2017, 59 percent of them enrolled in college, compared to 53 percent of Millennials and 44 percent of Gen Xers.

As business leaders, we must show Gen Z the opportunities in Tampa’s under-saturated market. It’s big enough, yet small enough, where they can actually make a difference.

Aakash Patel is president and founder of Elevate, Inc. and chair of the Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County.