Chamber Insider Blog

Pressing Your Nose Against Loudoun’s Store Front Window

Register here for our upcoming PolicyMaker Series event: “The Future of Loudoun’s Workforce”

Every parent has, at least once in their life, been confronted with the dreaded ‘I want that’ tantrum from their child.  It usually happens when you’re out shopping for a last second item (say for a forgotten birthday or anniversary present – not that that’s ever happened to me) and the kid sees a tempting toy or bit of candy in a store window and immediately WANTS it.  No, NEEDS it.  No WILL DIE WITHOUT IT AND TAKE YOU WITH THEM.

This practice on converting the impulse driven consumer (and their angelic children) into customers began late 1800s, when plate glass became more widely availability, store owners began building large windows on their stores to showcase the merchandise inside.

[Editor’s note: Brian, thanks for the history lesson, but what does this have to do with Loudoun?] I’m glad you asked.  Loudoun County needs to adopt this mentality if it wants to stay in the competition for the millennial workforce.   We need to show millennials that Loudoun County has what they want.

The millennial generation, (18-34 year-olds) is the dominant generation in the American workforce today (sorry, boomers).  As a business owner, if you want to keep growing your business, you MUST recruit and retain millennial workers.  So, it’s not surprising that mayors, economic developers, urban planners and business leaders are all currently obsessed with figuring out where millennials are choosing to live. 

Now, last I looked, despite our proximity to Washington, D.C., Loudoun County was far the stereotypical urban environment millennials seek.  We are, for the most part, a suburban bedroom community.  This is a nice lifestyle, don’t get me wrong, but it isn’t the lifestyle the millennials seem to want. 

Does this mean that Loudoun County is doomed economically because we cannot recruit millennial talent to live in our area?  NO, because the short answer isn’t really the whole answer.  Christopher Leinberger, author of “The Option of Urbanism, Investing in a New American Dream”, believes “The convergence of the rising Millennial generation and soon-to-retire Baby Boomers, half the US population are in the forefront of demanding the walkable urban alternative.” The whole answer is that millennials don’t necessarily want to live in big cities they just want an urban-oriented lifestyle that includes based on subjective preference night life (a prominence of music and entertainment scenes), artisanal food, affordable living, public transit and interconnectivity. 

This is where the window-shopping idea comes into play.  When millennials are researching where they want to live they are essentially pressing their nose against the glass.  If they don’t see the kinds of amenities they want, they won’t move into the community.

The good news is that we don’t need to recreate the urban jungle of New York City here in Loudoun County.  We just need a few great urban-walkable neighborhoods that contain those sought after amenities and we need to let millennials know that we have them.   

I’m pretty confident that Loudoun County knows how to sell itself (we are DC’s wine country) but we don’t yet have the goods the millennials want to buy.  We can get those goods though.  It will require a concentrated effort to turn our suburbs and green fields into the compelling urbanized places millennials are seeking.  But we need to make that effort and we need to do it fast because the millennials are growing up and we’re not the only storefront on the block.

Join the conversation as we talk about this issue on July 23rd at “The Future of Loudoun’s Workforce”. 


Register here for our upcoming PolicyMaker Series event: “The Future of Loudoun’s Workforce”