For fresh-faced job seekers and recent college grads looking for a place to thrive, Fairfield County might just be the right choice.
The Norwalk-Stamford-Bridgeport area is a prime spot for young professionals across the country, according to a recent ranking in Forbes magazine. The list placed Fairfield County 12th out of 16 metropolitan areas dubbed the best in the nation for young professionals, ahead of Seattle and San Francisco. Des Moines, Iowa, took the top spot, with Raleigh, N.C., in second place.
In assessing cities for their potential, Forbes looked at the numbers in the 100 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas identified by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. The ranking factored in elements such as cost of living, unemployment rate, the median salary for 24- to 34-year-olds and the number of small businesses in the area, according to the Forbes article, which was published Monday.
According to Forbes, Fairfield County, with a population of 939,904, median salary of $63,600 and average yearly job growth of 2 percent, seems to be a magnet for the young and ambitious.
"I'm delighted, of course," Catherine Smith, commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development, said of the ranking. "We've definitely seen a change in the past few years of young entrepreneurial types moving to Norwalk, Stamford, New Haven and even Bridgeport."
An influx of young professionals into the area has a positive effect on retail business, restaurants and housing, a process that builds on itself as more millennials are attracted by the prospect of an increasingly vibrant lifestyle in the area.
In Stamford, the demographic is skewing increasingly toward youth. In a study commissioned recently by the Downtown Special Services District, nearly 65 percent of people living downtown have someone in the 18-to-34 age group living in their household.
Randy Salvatore, founder and president of RMS Cos., has seen a notable interest among young professionals in the residential developments that he has been building across Stamford.
"In reality, what I see as a developer is exactly what Forbes is reinforcing in their article," Salvatore said. "Also, it's the quality of life that Stamford has to offer in terms of nightlife and day life. It's become a great social scene for young people."
He added: "Stamford has turned the corner. It's become a destination, and the buzz is out there."
Proximity to New York has always been a strong selling point for Fairfield County, but the restaurants and entertainment offered in the area are often negating the necessity of traveling into the city, said Marcia O'Kane, executive director of the Greenwich Chamber of Commerce.
"Greenwich offers a good quality of life for young professionals. In the past this group felt the need to drive or do a reverse commute into NYC for highly rated restaurants or housing close to their workplace," O'Kane said. "Now they have many good choices right here in town."
O'Kane also said the growth of the financial services industry in Greenwich has brought a younger workforce into the area.
Small-business jobs and entrepreneurship are another factor in bringing up the state's youth demographic, Smith said. She cited Datto, a data and security company that began as a startup and now has office space in Norwalk and great potential to hire a young workforce.
"When I talk to business owners around the state, they all point to how important it is to have young people in the state, with the talent to bring to their business in the future," Smith said. "We hope it will continue all around the state."