Sharing thoughts 

The Pikes Peak region has a tough time attracting and retaining young professionals. This isn't breaking news.

In fact, says Sue Stohlmann, that problem was one of the reasons that the Colorado Springs Diversity Forum was founded back in 2005. But now forum members are tackling the question head-on: How does this city become more attractive to the 25-to-44 age bracket?

"According to the Census, we've had this trend in losing that age group in our population for 30 years," says Stohlmann, Diversity Forum project manager. "And while we have had a lot of surveys done, we haven't had a lot of surveys that focus on that age group in particular."

For instance, Stohlmann says, work done for the Operation 60ThirtyFive project was conducted to understand the economic development in the region, but didn't quite get to the heart of this "losing young professionals" matter.

So the forum has partnered with Colorado Technical University, local consulting firm Global Exchange Group, and the Pikes Peak Library District to design and implement a survey that it hopes will shed some light.

As Denise Whinnen, also with the Diversity Forum, puts it, "One of the things that we are wondering about are the economic opportunities. Do people feel that they get glass-ceilinged here, and they have to move because of their career? Does the community offer enough social activities that would benefit young singles and young families?"

The survey, available in English and Spanish, asks general questions about age, income, ethnicity, education level, sexual orientation and so on, but then veers into more complicated, and subjective, questions: "In brief, what do you like about Colorado Springs?" "If you thought about relocating (other than for job or family reasons), what city/town might you consider? What is the appeal of this new location?"

It also requests, but doesn't require, participants' name and contact information.

Tanya Wakefield, a doctoral student at CTU, is working on the survey. She says that the survey intentionally focuses on the subjective.

"What we wanted to do is purely exploratory," she says.

They are hoping at least 500 people will fill out the survey, and that the responses can form a picture of the people living outside the popular view of the "young professional," says Whinnen, and "capture people in the survey who were from a different socio-economic status or from communities of color, who might perceive opportunity differently."

To this end, she says, the Diversity Forum is going to its existing membership and allied organizations to get the word out.

Whinnen is hoping for responses that mirror the ethnic and economic makeup of the city itself.

The data should be available for the public by June, says Stohlmann. "Our goal is to provide raw information for anyone who wants to use it."

The forum will take findings to City Council and the county commissioners, so perhaps it could help guide future budgetary and infrastructural decisions. And thanks to the partnership with Colorado Tech, this data will be available to doctoral students for further research, including follow-up interviews with those who submitted their contact information, which might be included in published papers.

Rachel Stovall, community engagement and outreach specialist for PPLD, sees this survey as an opportunity for decision-makers to hear from everyday people.

"Leadership talks to each other all the time. They put together a great game plan, but it's a rare occurrence that anybody actually asks the people," she says. "Obviously, I highly value all of the heads of our agencies and nonprofits. I just hope that people who aren't engaged yet will come in to what is going on.

"I'd love to hear some fresh perspectives."

The survey can be found online at cospdiversityforum.org or in hard copy at any local library branch.



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