(l to r) Gideon Blustein, John Greuling (WCCED), Joyce Zelazik (TRAR), Karen Robertson (TRAR), Eddie Ruettiger (TRAR), Lisa Herceg (NAR), Doug Pryor (WCCED), Steve Caton (TRAR), Bill Caton (TRAR) and Joan Caton (TRAR).

One of the key ingredients to Will County’s economic future will be building enough new homes to satisfy the needs of millennials, ages 25 to 34.

The importance of attracting and keeping millennials was a common theme shared with Will County business leaders last week in Joliet at a special event hosted by the Will County Center for Economic Development (WCCED) with support from the Three Rivers Association of REALTORS®. Doug Pryor, WCCED vice president, began with an economic report on housing and population trends in the county. Keynote speaker Lisa Herceg, director of business insights for the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), followed with an analysis of millennials and consumer housing trends.

At one time, Will County could boast that its single-family home construction accounted for 19 percent of single-family building permits in the state. Although that percentage went down to a still-respectable 12 percent in 2017, the percentage of millennials has dropped to 11.6 percent of the total population, said Pryor. In contrast, multifamily building permits issued in the county has remained consistently low. Read Pryor’s report, Something happened on the way to 1 million residents.

Because millennials outnumber any other age group in the country, and they continue to express a desire to become homeowners despite problems with student loan debt, Herceg says attracting and keeping millennials will be critical to local communities.

Important demographic trends, Herceg says, include minority populations growing, marriage rates dropping, life spans rising and household incomes increasing. However, the number of first-time home buyers seem suppressed while those who do are less likely to be married, have fewer children and perhaps more pets.

Millennials seem to be interested in living close to their hometowns, their families, their friends and their jobs. As a group, those in the 25-to-34-year-old age range desire leisure activities, prefer smaller and older homes. Read Herceg’s presentation, Avocado Toast for One, Please.

“The presentations were well received by Will County’s business and civic leaders,” said Gideon Blustein, member outreach manager and local governmental affairs director. “Many recognized we have our work cut out in educating both elected officials and the public about the need for new housing inventory that will attract millennial buyers.”