Can we keep millennials in Gilroy?

LEAVING TOWN Kayla Marchetti, 21, and Juan Orozco, 22, Gavilan students from Hollister, plan to leave the area to get their four-year degrees but plan to return later in life.

Gilroy officials have made a priority of keeping millennials–people in their 20s and 30s–in town after they graduate from college. The challenge is daunting, according to a survey of Gavilan students, who say the city is boring, too expensive and doesn’t have adequate housing.
“The housing is way too expensive for anyone who just graduates,” said Zack Arcelo, an 18-year old political science major from Gilroy. “I’m not sure exactly where I’m going to go, but it probably won’t be here.”
Adam Lopez,18, Leslie Aparicio,18, and Daniel Chavez,19, are all part of Gavilan’s student government, who have big ambitions to make a mark in the world, but they all plan to leave here as soon as they can.
“I’m definitely going to the East Coast. I’m sick of Gilroy and I’m sick of California,” Chavez said. “I want to grow as a person, it’s so small here and there’s not much to do. I can’t extend my career here. I can’t be who I want to be here. They just don’t offer that,” Aparicio said.
Millennials are tarred and feathered for being feckless free spirits, who spend all their time glued to their phones, too busy on Instagram to take anything seriously. In fact, they make less money on average than the Baby Boomer generation. They take fewer vacations. Gone are most pension plans and home ownership, once the bedrock ideal of the American Dream, seems impossible for many.
“I have friends who moved out who wanted to come back to Gilroy,” Chavez said. “They can’t afford to live here anymore. A few years ago I knew some people who rented a house on Mantelli here so they could go to Gavilan. There were eight of them but then they could do it. Now it’s too expensive.”
Gavilan Student President Leslie Aparicio said students are being priced out of Gilroy.
“The rise in real estate costs from the people moving in has forced lower-income people to struggle,” she said “It’s an agricultural community, so there aren’t many jobs locally. There’s a lot of people coming here from Silicon Valley who can’t live there. It’s really affecting the smaller families who can’t afford to pay that kind of rent. It makes everything go up.”
Gilroy’s nightlife offerings are paltry, they said.
“I never go out in Gilroy; there is nothing to do here,” Aparicio said.
“I had friends from Oregon come over last weekend and I took them to Santa Cruz,” Chavez said. “I took them to the hiking trail on Highway 152, but there’s nothing to show them in Gilroy.”
Some are drawn north to San Jose or San Francisco.
“The cost of living is ridiculous,” said Mia Gutierrez, 21. “The Bay Area is ridiculously expensive but I would rather pay more money to live in the San Francisco area than here. The things here in Gilroy and Hollister aren’t worth the cost of rent. I think the Bay Area would be more worth it.”
“A lot of people think it’s sad how excited people get here when a new restaurant opens because that’s how boring the city is,” added Jenna Bogie, 21.
There’s some good news out there. Many of them think they’ll come back later. They said they appreciate the quiet, small-town vibe. They want to be close to mom and dad and they want a safe place for their kids. “I would come back to raise my kids here,” said Ronné Davis, 18. “It’s a great place to raise your family.”
They also noted opportunities in the Silicon Valley for tech savvy millennials. Chavez said he and some of his friends were offered good paying jobs in the tech industry right out of high school. The benefits of the University of California in-state tuition benefits is another benefit.
“There are opportunities to be had here, so I can see why someone who’s in a certain field will do well here,” said Chavez, who wants to transfer to Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore. “You have to see what you want to do and if you’re into computer science, you can’t get much better than here.”
There’s good news out there for parents who aren’t ready for their kids to fly the nest. More and more millennials are staying home and with the rising cost of rent the nest may get cramped. According to the real estate website, nearly a third of millennials in San Jose and San Francisco live at home.
“I have two other sisters who are 30 and 28 who are living at home,” Bogie said. “That’s how expensive it is, where adults need to live at home with their parents as long as possible because of how expensive it is.”