LIMA — Anyone familiar with Lima, Ohio, will probably be familiar with the disparaging acronym “Lost In Middle America” once attributed to the city. However, a published article in USA Today indicates that, for a new generation, what was once lost may now be found.
The Saturday article outlines a growing trend among the millennial generation, which roughly encompasses those born between 1982 and 2004. While previous generations were often drawn to major metropolitan areas to live and work, millennials are increasingly buying homes in smaller cities to be closer to family and take advantage of lower home prices, among other factors. According to research by mortgage data firm Ellie Mae cited in the article, communities in Ohio and North Dakota have been among the top destinations for millennials, with Lima coming in fourth-highest in the list.
One example of this trend is Katie Wuebker, 23, a Shawnee High School and Ohio State University-Lima alumnus who left an internship at Walt Disney World to return to Lima. Now a programs coordinator at the Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce, she said she has no regrets about her decision to come back home.
“I moved away and traveled, but Lima called back to me,” she said. “I want to have a nice job, but I want to be close to my family. Lima really is a great place for people my age.”
Wuebker cited such attractions as the movie theater, local bars and hangouts and a large variety of shopping and dining options as attractive qualities in the area.
“I think it’s really conveniently placed, not too far from any given city,” she said. “So if you want to get out of Lima for a day, you can, but there’s enough to do in Lima that you don’t really have to.”
That is good news for people like Allen Economic Development Group President and CEO Jeff Sprague, who markets Lima and Allen County to businesses looking for new locations.
“When we go out and visit with our companies and you look around in the office and on the plant floor, there are a number of young professionals working at all our companies,” he said. “A lot of times, people don’t think we’re attractive or attracting that age group, but in reality, we really are.”
For Adah Ellerbrock, Chamber of Commerce vice president of community relations and programs and chamber liaison for Lima Young Professionals, having more millennials in the Lima area is not only advantageous to those millennials coming home, but also for the community at large.
“They bring so many different ideas,” she said. “They bring new thinking. It’s not just about bringing in craft beer. It’s more about bringing a fresh outlook on things. They really think big.”