Charles Meador believes an upcoming event will pull together millennials in Manatee County.
A 34-year-old father who owns his home, Heritage Harbour's Charles Meador said he doesn't fit the stereotype some people identify with his generation.
Meador is a millennial, or a person born after 1980 who has reached adulthood.
"Members of other generations might think millennials are lazy and don’t like to work our way from the bottom," said Meador, who works as a property specialist for Manatee County. "We're not known to 'work for things' in a society where we have information at our finger tips."
Meador has been a homeowner for two years, after a stint as a manager for FedEx and seven years in finance.
"I'm a fan of job stability," Meador said. "Which is the opposite of what you sometimes hear about millennials."
Interested in helping to diminish his generation's stigma, Meador has signed up for #4 Progress MCon, an inaugural conference promoted by the Manatee Millennial Movement group. It will run from April 1 through April 3 at various sites in Manatee County.
Manatee Millennial Movement was founded in 2015 by East County resident Ogden Clark, who hopes to attract as many millennials as possible throughout the county and surrounding areas. Clark said the event is geared toward young professionals who have an interest in making the area more millennial friendly.
"Our target audience is college students, young people who are thinking about leaving to look for opportunities elsewhere," Clark said. "We want to get them connected with each other, and to get them civically engaged."
Clark said Manatee County politicians, school board members and other "movers and shakers" have agreed to attend the event to field questions from participants.
Clark hopes attendees will give officials ideas of what kind of improvements they would like to see in Manatee County.
"Millennials have a good idea of what they like and what they'd like to see happen here," Clark said. "They just might not be able to attend the twice-a-month Manatee County Commission meetings, which are held during the work week. This event is part of a movement of outside-of-the-box engagement that will transform local government and how it connects with citizens. Millennials can play a role in very important discussions on what Manatee County will look like in 15 to 20 years."
Event organizers also hope to start discussions on a barrier they believe is forcing millennials out of the area, increasing home prices, especially in east Manatee County.
Clark said affordable housing is an issue that needs to be addressed.
"Affordable doesn't mean government-assisted," Clark said. "It's when we can pay less than 30% of our income toward a mortgage. Young people are most affected by home prices. They're not even at the table for that discussion. The prices are high and millennials aren't engaged because of that."
Clark said millennials have a hard time finding a place to live in Lakewood Ranch.
"It would be great to be close to more night life that is available in Lakewood Ranch, especially on Main Street," Clark said. "But the cost of homes in Lakewood Ranch isn't affordable for young people. Younger people are working but not living in Lakewood Ranch."
A real estate market review on Trullia.com shows $370,000 as the average price of a home in Lakewood Ranch, although many options, such as condos and townhouses, are available for less.
“I would say East County is an attraction for millennials," Meador said. "But it depends what your interests are. The expansion that is happening on University Parkway and in Lakewood Ranch, with more places to eat and shop, is something I think appeals to people in my generation.
"We need to show millennials where they fit in the big picture in our county," Clark said. "That means listening to their ideas for how we can improve our community, whether that means offering more entertainment options or tackling affordable housing, so they can live and work in the same area."