After a year spent trying to target businesses that would appeal to baby boomers, city officials have concluded boomers are attracted by the same things that draw other age groups.

In a presentation to the city’s Economic Development Committee Wednesday night, City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz cited an article from the the current issue of Governing magazine, which quoted an official from AARP, the group formerly known as the Americna Association of Retired Persons, as saying “most of the features that attract older people to a community are the same ones that draw younger residents.”

So, Bobkiewicz said he’s proposing shifting the theme “baby boomer markets” in last year’s econonomic development plan to “quality of place” this year.

That drew criticism from Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, who said that section of the proposal “felt like it was Jello, that it had “a lot of warm and fuzzy words, but I’m not sure what it meant.”

But Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, said she favored the concept — suggesting it involed a focus on giving peopel reasons to brag about Evanston, to make them want to stay here.

The city manager said he’s struggled with the wording, too. He suggested it involved creating a brand for the city, perhaps like that of Boulder, Col., which promotes itself as a place for outdoor activities and a healthy lifestyle.

“We kept coming back to the word ‘cool,’ Bobkiewicz added “something that sts Evanston apart.

Bobkiewicz also proposed tweaking last year’s emphasis on “health care and wellness industries.”

The city manager also drew some flack for his proposed emphasis on workforce development in the new plan.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said she thought that part of the plan should be removed — that workforce development efforts now run through other city departments were sufficient.

But Seth Freeman, who represents the Plan Commission on the EDC, disagreed, saying “workforce development absolutely belongs in the economic development plan.

And Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said she shared Freeman’s viewpoint.

She said the city should talk to employers about what qualifications they will need in employees over the next decade or more, and then work with the schools to develop that talent, to they could go back to employers and say, “Don’t move, we’ll have the workforce you need here.”

The full economic development work plan is available online.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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