By Tony DeLisi

In communities across the country, Avalanche sees a growing focus on cultivating talent. Younger individuals with skills and education are drivers of innovation and the top workers sought by businesses in all industries.

When the 2015 US Census American Community Survey data came out last week, we decided to dig into the numbers to answer two questions:

  • Which metros have the highest existing concentration of talent?
  • Which metros saw the greatest gains in talent?

Talent can mean many things, but for the sake of this discussion, Avalanche examined three primary factors in each metropolitan area:

  • The share of population aged 25-34 (prime, early career workforce)
  • The share of residents aged 25-34 with a bachelor’s degree or higher (educated young workers)
  • The concentration of college students (a pool of skilled individuals about to enter the workforce)

For each of these factors, Avalanche rated every metropolitan area in the nation on a 0-100 scale. We built the average into an overall Existing Talent Index.

When examining the 100 largest metropolitan areas, Avalanche found somewhat predictable results.


 (Note: Of all metropolitan and micropolitan areas, Ames, IA had the highest Existing Talent Index and The Villages, FL the lowest.)


We then created an Emerging Talent Index – comparing relative growth in all three factors from 2014 to 2015. Only one metro – Denver – made the top 10 in both the Emerging and Existing lists. top-10-growing-talent

(Note: Of all metropolitan and micropolitan areas, Forest City, NC had the highest Emerging Talent Index and Steubenville, OH the lowest.)


These trends tell an interesting story. The greatest talent growth is not necessarily occurring where talent already exists.

Educated 25-34 year olds are still moving to America’s most talent-filled metros – notably San Francisco, Austin, and Denver. But talent growth is occurring in metros not known for their youthful, educated workforce.

There are many potential reasons for this:

  • Some markets may already be saturated with young workers competing for jobs.
  • High cost of living in the top talent metros may be leading young workers to seek communities where they can afford a higher quality of life.
  • Many young workers may be attracted to cities that specialize in specific industry clusters – such as information technology or life science.

Understanding the reason your community is gaining or losing talent requires an honest, in-depth evaluation – examining data trends and hearing the personal stories of young people. Developing this baseline knowledge of your competitive strengths and weaknesses is the first step towards identifying strategic initiatives to grow your talent base.

If you are interested in learning how Avalanche can help your community grow its talented workforce, please contact Tony DeLisi to learn more about our services.