I had lunch today at 1859 Cafe. It sits directly on 2nd Avenue SW and perpendicular to 5th street SW. As I have told you, my Aunt owns that restaurant. There were five of us who sat in the Parlor against the wall, in front of the mirror. I enjoyed a nice lunch with a few people who really care about Hickory. Two of the people were Young Professionals, who are up and comers, who read this blog and through e-mail correspondence expressed to me their concerns about the direction this city is headed in. The two others individuals who joined us are already involved in the political dynamics of our city's current political landscape.
Right now I'm not going to name names, because it is irrelevant to the message I am conveying. I wouldn't say that any of us march in lockstep on ideals, but we all agree that our city is on the wrong path. We all agreed on one conclusion that has been discussed in this very blog. Hickory can no longer afford to abandon or take for granted the Younger Demographic. We must do everything we can to stem the mass exodus of the 20 and 30-somethings who have decided that there is no reason to call Hickory their home.
No one can legitimately state that I want younger people in here, because I am young. I am 43 years old and I'm not getting any younger. Why not go along with those who want to encourage more and more retirees to locate here?
Because empirical evidence shows that our area's demographics are way out of kilter and my own anecdotal experiences constantly reinforce that opinion. Below are Population Pyramids of the United States that show the age distributions in 1990 and 2000, as well as the projection for 2025:
What you will notice is the bulge that is filtering its way through the years. The population is projected to become more evenly distributed by 2025. The population of our area will naturally become older no matter what we do, but we can't afford to exacerbate the numbers and make that bulge even larger, because it will have profound negative effects on our real estate prices.
South Florida Real Estate: Boom & Bust - Dowell Myers has taken a look at the aging baby boomers and warns of this trend creating a generational housing bubble. He looks at the point at which people at certain ages shift from becoming net buyers to net sellers of homes, and you can see in this chart (SLIDE 7) that happens right about at age 60 or so. Myers is saying that the future buying and selling actions of this big group of people, the baby boom cohort, has major implications for housing markets.This is an issue of simple supply and demand. As that bulge ages, those people have similar needs when it comes to housing, healthcare, and lifestyle. At the point, when that bulge reaches 75+ years old, a number of those people are going to want to sell their house or townhome and move to an Assisted Living Center or Senior Community. As this happens, real estate market values will be completely dependent on the buyer's market. The fewer younger people there are to buy these houses; the harder it's going to be to sell a house and subsequently the lower the selling price will be. That also means our tax rates are going to rise.
If we focus on retirees, then we are going to have to focus more of the community's resources and energy to cater to the elder demographic. Can we afford to do that at the expense of the mobile populace, especially when we see the path that the Federal Government wants to take us down on healthcare? Healthcare dollars look like they are going to be placed in check in some manner. That means that there isn't going to be a plethora of money in taking care of the aged. Heck, I have seen first hand that services for the aged are already lacking.
I'm just asking that we try to restore some balance into the equation. Why would 20 and 30-somethings stick around just to be ignored and/or relegated to being subservient to the elderly.The vast majority of the elderly are on fixed incomes, do you really want to base an economy on people living on fixed incomes. Do you want to live in a Big Lots and J&S Cafeteria World?
The younger generation are the workers and thus the money generators. While the older generation is winding it down, the younger generation is cranking it up. Malaise, lethargy, and "Run Down" are adjectives that I have heard when it comes to describing this area over the last eight years. Folks, that is where the pessimism has settled in.
As I sat having lunch today, I was faced with the graffiti that has been plastered all over the abandoned building two blocks over. I was struck by the vacant building where Details used to reside. I witnessed that there was hardly any traffic going down 1st or 2nd Avenue. These were not the memories I had of that area, even just a few short years ago. I remember when that area thrived. My mind could not settle the paradox of those sites versus the backdrop of the tasteful and artistically designed decoration of 1859 Cafe. Something is amiss and it's not 1859. Have we given up? Are we going to let parts of town turn to rubble? Are we supposed to let whole sections of our community die without even a whimper?
We need to do more to attract the energy that comes with the younger demographic. I certainly haven't been inspired by the status quo that has infected this community. I have witnessed first hand the energy that these young people are willing to bring to the table. This younger generation gives me hope that we can turn things around. When these young guys step forward, let's encourage them and work with them. Let's help these guys get some of their projects off the ground, so that we can revitalize our economy and restore optimism into the equation of the future.