And the survey said…young professionals want lots of jobs and food

The executive summary for the YRVA Study was recently released, outlining what young professionals value most (and least) in Richmond and other cities.

Update #1 — May 21, 2013; 2:43 PM

Southeastern Institute of Research released yesterday an executive summary (PDF) of their YRVA Study, a marketing research initiative meant to better identify how the Richmond Region can attract and retain more young professionals2 (see below).

The findings of the study will be discussed tonight during the “Food and Jobs: Attracting RVA’s Next Generation” public square (registration is currently full). Follow #RVAnext on Twitter for updates from this evening’s discussion.

Over 3,500 people participated in the YRVA Study, a mix of qualitative focus groups and quantitative surveys across five research audiences:

  • College students in the region and state
  • Young professionals living in the region
  • Young professionals living in six other cities (Austin, TX; Denver, CO; Charlotte, NC; Raleigh, NC; Atlanta, GA; Washington, DC)
  • Local business leaders
  • Human resource executives from the region’s largest companies

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Notable findings

College students

  • 78% of RVA college students love living in RVA
  • But 41% of RVA students say they will leave RVA after graduation.
  • 43% of college students across Virginia (outside RVA) say they are not “even considering” RVA as a place to live and work.
  • Students across the state report a perceived lack of jobs, and a variety of jobs, in RVA. Nearly all college students say job opportunities are the “most important” thing they are looking for in a city.

Young Professionals in RVA

  • 42% moved to RVA after college, 35% were already in the area. Nearly half (48%) also considered living in DC.
  • 79% love living in RVA and agree its a great place to live (84%)
  • But they are less likely to agree RVA is a place to find a mate (48%) and to start a business (45%).
  • Top drivers of positive feeling about living in RVA: food scene, urban living environment, embraces creativity, embraces innovation, has rich history, is safe, has quality and affordable housing.
  • 68% are happy with their current job.

Young Professionals (in general)

  • Young professionals in other markets have very little familiarity with RVA, even young professionals in nearby DC, Charlotte, and Raleigh.
  • Having a “rich history” is not a strong driver of positive perception for any city.
  • But local “food scene” (non-chain restaurants, diversity of food options, etc.) is the strongest driver of a city’s positive perception
  • Millennials are less car-centric; urban bikeability and walkability are important.
  • Millennials seek out jobs that allow them to use creativity and innovation.


There are several ways surveyors recommended how the region can increase the number of young professionals to the city. Three groups wrote reports outlining their specific recommendations to the region:

  • Attract more college students to RVA with global marketing of available jobs
  • Use food scene to attract more people
  • Building communities to retain more existing young professionals

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Original — November 13, 2012

Why do people choose to live and work in Richmond and not other cities? Three online surveys now being conducted aim to answer the question.

The surveys, collectively known as the YRVA Study, are organized by Richmond’s Future, a nonprofit think tank that addresses an array of issues central to the Richmond Region’s future vitality. The surveys, featuring one for students and another for young professionals, aim to glean the region’s appeal.1

Containing both multiple choice and open-ended questions, the questions were written by over 30 people based in the region with assistance from the nationally-known market research firm, Southeastern Institute of Research, Inc (SIR).

Discussions about the surveys began in Spring 2012, said Danielle Chonko, manager at SIR and a YRVA Study project team member. She said the idea sprang from Dr. Eugene Trani, former president of VCU and Chair of the Board of Richmond’s Future. One of his initiatives, said Chonko, was to work “with young professionals to try and figure out why they moved to Richmond…to find out why people choose to live here, their perception of the city, the importance of the creative community in the city, what they love, why they leave or stay and how we can continue to make RVA an attractive location in years to come.”

Dr. Eugene Trani: “The Richmond region’s success and future are dependent on attracting and retaining a diverse population of young professionals.” He said the survey results will “…offer research-inspired insights that civic and business leaders can use to help strengthen the current and future appeal…” of the region.

Earlier this year, an advisory team of about 10 people was assembled to help produce the surveys, including the executive director of Venture Richmond, Jack Berry. Last summer, that advisory team began assisting in the process to select the near 30-member team tasked with creating the questions.

Chonko said the team is a “very encompassing group of young professionals.” It features those who live in the city or a nearby county, as well as a mix of races and genders. “We wanted to make sure [the group] looked like Richmond,” Chonko said. “The surveys were created by young professionals for young professionals, so the insights from this research effort should be relevant and meaningful to help RVA grow and thrive.”

Each survey takes approximately 15 minutes to complete and will remain open for the next two weeks.

Organizers hope to collect 1,000 responses in total. SIR will provide the data analysis and will present their findings to the Richmond’s Future board next spring. The report will also be made public on Richmond’s Future website.

The near 30-member project team will also provide supplemental reports. Those reports may be presented through non-traditional means, such as a Facebook page or YouTube video, said Chonko.

As an incentive, those who complete at least one survey are automatically entered in a contest to win a free iPad or one of two $250 Apple gift cards.

Surveys can be accessed below:

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  1. Another survey is meant for students who attend college outside of the region
  2. For the study, this typically refers to people under 35. 

photo by taberandrew

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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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