During the site selection process, quality of life factors can be important when a company is determining where to locate human capital assets.  Understanding that companies want to attract top talent and Millennials choose where they want to live first and find a job second, company culture and quality of life are very important. 

As is generally accepted, a prominent driver in population migration is quality of life, a reasonable cost-of-living and job opportunities.  Recently, Forbes examined the movement of populations between the major metros of the United States between 2010 and 2014 and New Geography ranked the 53 largest areas based on their annualized rates of population change attributable to migration.

Here are the top five winners:

5.  Nashville, TN
2014 Population:  1.97 million
Net Domestic Migration Gain, 2010-2014:  63,477
Annual rate of Population Increase Since 2010 From Migration:  0.87%
Employment Growth 2010-2014:  4.2%
Median Home Price:  $177,775
Median Millennial Earnings:  $34,147

4. Denver, CO
2014 Population:  2.75 million
Net Domestic Migration Gain, 2010-2014:  103,785
Annual rate of Population Increase Since 2010 From Migration:  0.95%
Employment Growth 2010-2014:  11.2%   
Median Home Price:  $311,525
Median Millennial Earnings:  $39,492

3.  San Antonio, TX
2014 Population:  2.33 million
Net Domestic Migration Gain, 2010-2014:  94,159
Annual rate of Population Increase Since 2010 From Migration:  1.02%
Employment Growth 2010-2014:  11.0%
Median Home Price:  $147,825
Median Millennial Earnings:  $31,935

2.  Raleigh, NC
2014 Population:  1.24 million
Net Domestic Migration Gain, 2010-2014:  55,920
Annual rate of Population Increase Since 2010 From Migration:  1.14%
Employment Growth 2010-2014:  11.6%
Median Home Price:  $200,300
Median Millennial Earnings:  $38,492

1.  Austin, TX
2014 Population:  1.94 million
Net Domestic Migration Gain, 2010-2014:  126,296
Annual rate of Population Increase Since 2010 From Migration:  1.69%
Employment Growth 2010-2014:  15.6%
Median Home Price:  $299,000
Median Millennial Earnings:  $36,357

Though the weather is mild and the amenities are plentiful, if we focus only on the increase in migration, Austin comes in number one.  This is primarily due to the employment growth of 15.6%.  Housing costs, however, put Austin a bit more costly than the remaining top five.  The median home price is $229,000.  The bigger winner may be Raleigh with a slightly higher median Millennial earning, strong employment growth at 11.6% and a lower median home price of $200,300.

In contrast, here are the lowest ranked locations out of the 53 evaluated:

49. Cleveland, OH
2014 Population:  13.26 million
Net Domestic Migration Loss, 2010-2014:  208,635
Annual rate of Population Decrease Since 2010 From Migration:  -0.44 %
Employment Growth 2010-2014:  2.4%
Median Home Price:  $122,625
Median Millennial Earnings:  $35,109

50.  Detroit, MI
2014 Population:  4.30 million
Net Domestic Migration Loss, 2010-2014:  89,649
Annual rate of Population Decrease Since 2010 From Migration:  -0.50%
Employment Growth 2010-2014:  3.7%
Median Home Price:  $110,075
Median Millennial Earnings:  $36,160

51.  Hartford, CT
2014 Population:  1.21 million
Net Domestic Migration Loss, 2010-2014:  27,425
Annual rate of Population Decrease Since 2010 From Migration:  -0.54%
Employment Growth 2010-2014:  1.8%
Median Home Price:  $226,625
Median Millennial Earnings:  $44,032

52.  Chicago, IL-IN-WI
2014 Population:  9.55 million
Net Domestic Migration Loss, 2010-2014:  237,666
Annual rate of Population Decrease Since 2010 From Migration:  -0.60%
Employment Growth 2010-2014:  6.5%
Median Home Price:  $199,875
Median Millennial Earnings:  $39,331

53.  New York, NY-NJ-PA
2014 Population:  20.09 million
Net Domestic Migration Loss, 2010-2014:  528,742
Annual rate of Population Decrease Since 2010 From Migration:  -0.64%
Employment Growth 2010-2014:  6.0%
Median Home Price:  $374,350
Median Millennial Earnings:  $43,809

Though Hartford has the lowest employment growth on the list, its wages are comparable to New York, but with a much more modest median home price than what the New York MSA offers.  By combining the high median home prices, modest median Millennial wages and employment growth of only 6.0%, the math that gives New York the bottom spot on the list is easy; a population headed towards areas with better job opportunities and more affordable housing. 

Although not exclusive to labor force and housing affordability, factors involving quality of life and workforce availability are nearly always a part of the equation when clients are making location decisions.  In comparison, quality of life and cost of living are nearly always factors in an employee choosing a location to live.  It can be concluded that employer and employee have, at least a few, mutually agreeable driving factors in location decisions.  As sites selectors, we aggregate and analyze data from multiple sources, as well as watch the changing trends that could affect our clients’ location decisions.  Human capital availability and quality of life remain steadfast key decision drivers and it is without surprise to find the cities thriving economically are those that are experiencing positive domestic migration. 

Larry Gigerich is managing director of Ginovus.

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