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Millennials Are Moving To Colorado For Work And Play

Megan McMillan
Laura Palmisano

Millennials are on the move. People in their 20’s and early 30’s are the most migratory age group in the United States, according to demographers and economists.

Megan MacMillan moved to Colorado from Canada four years ago. She’s 34 years old and just found out she’s a millennial.

“I think that’s great because I didn’t realize I was a millennial," MacMillan said. "I thought that the millennials were a generation younger than me so it made me feel quite young.  And, I was born in 1980 so from what I understand I am the very beginning of that generation putting me at the oldest end of that spectrum.”

MacMillan moved to Colorado to attend culinary school. 

“When I was looking at culinary schools the one in Boulder was the only school I could find in North America that was a legitimate culinary school that actually had a farm-to-table focus," she said. "And that is what my background was in Toronto and I wanted my culinary skills to reflect that. I think that’s telling right there because I think farm-to-table is a growing movement and it was only in Boulder, Colorado that there was actually a program that was based around it."

After finishing culinary school MacMillan moved to the North Fork Valley, an agricultural area in western Colorado.

"I think [it was] May of 2010 and so the farms were really just getting going in their season at that time, but what I saw and tasted was outstanding," she said. "And I came back to work with that food."

MacMillan opened North Fork Foods a year and a half ago. Her company makes and sells farm-to-table prepared meals and caters events.

"I would love to stay in Colorado," she said. "I am from Canada and there are times where I miss certain aspects of Canadian culture but I feel so lucky to be in this part of the world. If I can make this business work I would really like to stay in Colorado."

There are about 5.3 million people living in the state, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The State Demography Office categorizes millennials as people born between 1980 and 1999 meaning this demographic represents about 28 percent of the state’s population. That’s about 1.5 million people. 

Kelsey Gibb is 23 years old. After graduating college in 2013, she lived with her parents in Vermont for a year. She worked part time and tried to find full-time work in New England, but wasn’t successful.

“Senior year that was definitely something that we all had to come to terms with was you know you’re probably not going to get your dream job right out of college," she said. "It’s all about getting something…and getting a year or two of experience and then kind of changing to something more along the lines of your interests."

Two months ago Gibb moved to Carbondale for a job. She works as an administrative assistant and rebate specialist for a solar company.

Kelsey Gibb
Credit Laura Palmisano
Kelsey Gibb moved to Carbondale for work.

 “I think that Colorado definitely offers a lot that maybe other states don’t," she said. "I think it’s a nice balance of like work hard, play hard, which I think is really appealing to a lot of millennials.

Troy Bowen is 19 years old. He moved to Paonia, Colorado about two months ago from Cedar City, Utah.

Bowen dropped out of high school at the age of 15 and got his GED. He said he didn’t want to go school. He wanted to work and started doing everything from construction to selling knives.

“I feel our generation is either we are hard workers or we are really lazy," he said. "You can really pick and choose between my generation.”

Bowen moved to Colorado because he said it was difficult for him to find work in Utah.

"They don’t like people that look like me tattooed [with] gauges and piercings, [and] long hair," he said. "It’s not what they want there. It’s very hard for people like me. It’s hard for us to get jobs in places like that. And here it’s just no one cares as long as you are a hard worker you got a job."

Since moving to the state Bowen got a job at a restaurant.

"I have my food handlers permit which I just got to just open doors [and] to just have it," he said. "Really being a dishwasher that’s the first job most people get in the kitchen and then it goes into what I’m doing now. I’m cutting meat [and] making salads. I started cooking the other day."

Credit Laura Palmisano
Troy Bowen migrated from Utah to find work in Colorado.

Bowen said he also helps to support his mom.

"I sent her my entire paycheck last paycheck except for like 20 bucks just so I could have a pack of cigarettes," he said. 

Martin Shields, an economics professor at Colorado State University, said millennials are probably drawn to the state’s healthy job market that faired better than other places during the recession. Shields also said Colorado’s unemployment rate stayed below the national average during the downturn and remains there.

"What happens for a lot of millennials [and] for many generations is it’s not just a job search," he said. "It’s where do I want to have a job."

Shields said maybe it's the mountains, recreation opportunities, affordable housing, or less congestion that attracts people to the state. 

"All of these other things enter people's lifestyle decisions and so Colorado competes well on a number of those different attributes," he said.

The three millennials interviewed in this report all said they moved to Colorado for opportunity and they liked that they can live an active lifestyle in a place that’s easy going.



Laura joined KVNF in 2014. She was the news director for two years and now works as a freelance reporter covering Colorado's Western Slope. Laura is an award-winning journalist with work recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists, Colorado Broadcasters Association, and RTDNA. In 2015, she was a fellow for the Institute for Justice & Journalism. Her fellowship project, a three-part series on the Karen refugee community in Delta, Colorado, received a regional Edward R. Murrow Award.
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