Space Coast political and tourism leaders routinely tout the region's stellar national rankings in economic growth, destinations to move to, places to retire and more.
But Brevard County ranks near the bottom of the barrel as a place to live for a key demographic group — single millennials, according to a Porch Group study released last week.
Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville ranked only 135th out of America's 150 largest metropolitan areas for single millennials. Metrics included percentage of single millennials, gender ratio among millennials, millennial share of the population, and food and entertainment.
“I think I can understand how, if you're on the front end of the millennial age curve of 25-year-olds to 30-year-olds, Brevard may be a little bit of an adjustment coming from a metropolitan city," said Ryan Jesenik, who chairs Space Coast Young Professionals.
"However, I do believe that Brevard has a lot of great things to offer," Jesenik said. He moved to the Space Coast in January 2020 from Newport Beach, California, and he works as senior vice president of Orion 180 Insurance Services.
"Specifically around quality of life. A highly engaged community. And a rapidly improving restaurant culture," Jesenik said.
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According to the Pew Research Center, millennials were born between 1981 and 1996 and are 25 to 40 years old. Millennials now are the nation’s largest adult generation — and as of 2019, 56% were unmarried.
Porch ranked Charleston-North Charleston, South Carolina, as the nation's best city for single millennials. Boston-Cambridge-Newton ranked second, while Washington, D.C.-Arlington-Alexandria, Virginia, ranked third.
Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford led Florida by ranking 16th in the country. Jacksonville ranked 28th, while Gainesville ranked 46th and Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach ranked 75th.
Toward the rear of the list, Brevard County ranked one spot ahead of neighboring Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, which came in 136th. Port St. Lucie was 139th, Cape Coral-Fort Myers was 140th, Ocala was 142nd, and Naples-Marco Island ranked 146th out of the 150 metro areas.
Porch is a Seattle-based software platform for more than 20,000 home-services firms, ranging from mortgage companies and title companies to moving companies and real estate agencies.
Porch researchers analyzed 2019 U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis data, then compiled composite scores based on:
Percentage of single millennials.
Gender ratio among millennials.
Millennial share of the population.
Employment rate among single millennials (compared to average).
Median adjusted income for full-time millennials.
Food and entertainment.
A pivotal metric: Brevard's low millennial share of the population (18.2%) ranked only 141st among the 150 metro areas.
Fayetteville, North Carolina, had the highest millennial share of the population (26.5%). That percentage change represents nearly a 50% increase in millennial share, compared with Brevard.
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue and Clarksville, Tennessee-Kentucky, tied for second place in highest millennial share of the population at 26.4%.
North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton ranked 150th with the lowest millennial share (14.3%), followed closely by Naples-Marco Island (14.4%).
Brevard also ranked 121st in gender ratio among millennials, with 8.5% more men than women.
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Space Coast business officials consider it essential to attract young professionals to the area's booming aerospace and high-tech economy, with noteworthy hiring underway at L3Harris Technologies, Lockheed Martin, Terran Orbital, GenH2 and elsewhere.
During a mid-September Melbourne Regional Chamber panel discussion, OneWeb Satellites CEO James Hinds issued a challenge to chamber members: Make Brevard more attractive to younger job recruits.
“We have found it very difficult to actually get some of those high-end design staff," Hinds said during the chamber's annual retreat in Jupiter.
"The younger folks who are in that category say, ‘I don’t want to live in Cape Canaveral. Unless I’m a surfer, I don’t want to be down in Cocoa Beach. I want to go to Orlando,' " Hinds said.
"Because Orlando is somewhere where it’s happening,” he said.
Kirsten Dreggors, a fellow panelist who leads Northrop Grumman's Manned Aircraft Design Center of Excellence in Melbourne, replied that she receives similar feedback.
On the flip side, Brevard's poor single-millennial ranking runs counter to similar lists that tout it as one of America's top places to live:
The Milken Institute ranks Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville No. 2 on its Best-Performing Cities index for economic growth among the 200 largest metropolitan areas.
The United Van Lines 2020 national migration study ranked Melbourne-Titusville-Palm Bay the seventh-most popular place to move among urban areas of at least 50,000 residents.
U.S. News & World Report simultaneously ranks the Melbourne metro area as No. 4 in Best Places to Retire and No. 18 in Best Places to Live.
Zach Featherstone, 321 Millennials member chair, noted Brevard's low ranking (102nd out of 150) in Porch's food and entertainment category. He co-owns Beachfly Brewing Co. in Rockledge, and he moved here in 2017 from Colorado Springs.
“I've only been in Brevard for four or five years now, and I've seen that industry grow. We're getting some really cool, young, exciting chefs coming in and really bumping up the food scene," Featherstone said.
"Owning a brewery, we've worked with a lot of musicians in the area. I know there's a lot of really good musicians in the area," he said.
"I think one of the issues — it's kind of a good thing and a bad thing — is Brevard is so spread out. We don't have one main downtown metropolis area," he said.
"We have Cocoa Village. We have downtown Melbourne. Eau Gallie's starting to grow. We have Cocoa Beach. There’s these little pockets where you have arts and food and entertainment. But there's no one centralized area," he said.
A 2017 Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast survey showed that 80% of Space Coast millennials enjoyed their quality of life, 62% chose to live in Brevard over another location, and only 10% were Brevard natives.
Jesenik and Featherstone believe the Space Coast's millennial demographics cited by Porch are evolving because of rapid economic growth the past couple years.
The EDC manages the website livebigspacecoast.com to promote Brevard among young professionals and potential space workers. The site features the Launches & Lagers campaign, which pairs craft beers by local breweries with various spacecraft.
Last week, the Melbourne Regional Chamber announced it has rebranded and relaunched ENGAGE — its group aimed at networking and career advancement for 20-to-40-somethings — as Space Coast Young Professionals.Largely sidelined this year by the COVID-19 pandemic, SCYP hosted a networking fundraiser in May at Hotel Melby and a happy hour in September at Mainstreet Pub. The events garnered more than $3,900 in donations for Brevard Public Schools and the South Brevard Sharing Center.
SCYP will host an Ugly Sweater Holiday Happy Hour from 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 2 at Hell ‘n Blazes Brewing Co. in downtown Melbourne.
Admission is free with proof of purchase of $15 or greater from the Salvation Army’s virtual angel tree or $15 at the door. Proceeds will benefit the Salvation Army and the Gifts from the Heart Christmas Shop toy drive.
Thursday, 321 Millennials hosted a happy hour at Game Over Retro Arcade and Bar in West Melbourne. The event highlighted a food drive benefitting Women's Center of Brevard.
Next, 321 Millennials will host an outdoor holiday movie night featuring "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 17 outside BeachFly Brewing Co.'s new location at 513 Barton Blvd, in Rockledge, which has yet to open to the public. Attendees are encouraged to donate $5 or bring unwrapped toys for a toy drive.
This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Space Coast ranks near bottom for single millennials, study shows