How downtown is reeling in business, talent

Across the United States, downtowns are seeing a renewed focus and an energy that’s been absent for decades. As evidenced by a plethora of research conducted for a research report he recently conducted, Cushman & Wakefield Regional Vice President Jason Tolliver has been fascinated by this trend and sought to reveal answers to three resounding questions: Who is moving downtown? Why? And what are they seeking?

In the study, Cushman & Wakefield partnered with George Washington University and Smart Growth America to study 500 companies who had recently or were in the process of moving into downtown, and get their insight on those three key questions.

The results surprised him. Rather than a few select types of businesses, Tolliver actually found a vast array of more than 170 industries that sought the perks of locating in a dense, urban environment.

“What was fascinating and really illustrated slowing suburban job growth and accelerating CBD job growth is the fact that half of those new jobs downtown came from the suburbs – either from a suburban market in the same metro or those who relocated from a suburban market in another metro,” he said.

Another surprising finding? When examining why this diverse list of companies made the move to downtown, the conversation time and time again pointed to just six core themes. Most importantly, a downtown location allows these businesses to attract and maintain talented workers. It also speaks to a company’s brand identity and company culture, and is helpful with it comes to issues of proximity and accessibility, but more important than anything was the ability for businesses to appeal to the millennial generation.

A welcoming and walkable environment is key, he said.

“When its comes to commercial space, what tenants wanted was something new and exciting. A unique and innovative space that fosters collaboration and attracts talent. But our industry hasn’t done a good job of that historically. We would typically say, ‘Here’s your new box. Paint it whatever color you want as long as it’s beige,’“ he said. “What really resonated with all of these companies that invested was the welcome mat – the idea that they could go to a community and feel welcome, and that permitting and other necessary steps were facilitated so it could be done effectively.”

These concepts are important on more than a local level, Tolliver said. Companies are fighting in a war for talent, and this war is becoming a global war that will only accelerate in the future. Cities and communities should not only look to attract talent from across the country but around the world.

“Downtowns are uniquely positioned to be able to attract and bring in the type of talent that companies need to survive,” he said.

To read the complete report, click here.