Josiah and Linda Coleman, both 33, own the Salt and Light Cafe, a catering business, cafe and boutique on Main Street in Groton. The parents of two
Josiah and Linda Coleman, both 33, own the Salt and Light Cafe, a catering business, cafe and boutique on Main Street in Groton. The parents of two children, they wanted to stay in town. He was raised in Groton and she grew up in Pepperell. SUN / ANNE O'CONNOR

Kyle Morse moved to Shirley in 2014. The owner of Nebula Consulting and his wife were looking for a less-expensive option than living in Arlington or Concord.

What sold them on the area was the price. Both telecommute at least part of the week, and the ability to work from home is what will draw millennials to the area, said Morse, 31.

As Nashoba Valley towns such as Shirley, Ayer, Pepperell and Groton plan for the future, millennials are a big part of the discussion.

People born between roughly 1980 and 1996 now outnumber baby boomers, once the largest generation, according to Pew Research.

Attracting -- and keeping -- these young adults to the area is a goal for local officials.

Family-friendly spots like Kids Kountry Playground in Townsend keep kids busy. Isabelle Cote leads the way down the slide followed by Cassadee
Family-friendly spots like Kids Kountry Playground in Townsend keep kids busy. Isabelle Cote leads the way down the slide followed by Cassadee O'Grady, left, Shawn O'Grady, right, and, at the top, Ellie and Ben Cote. SUN / ANNE O'CONNOR

Millennials and seniors, another growing population, want some of the same things in their living environment, said Pepperell Town Planner Steve Parker. Smaller, more affordable living units like condos or apartments suit the needs of singles and couples.

Planning by utilizing existing infrastructure and creating a vibrant scene will help attract young professionals, said Ayer Economic and Community Development Director Alan Manoian.

"We have to have urban design that results in the attraction of young, dynamic people," he said.

Commuters living near downtown Ayer can take the train and walk to restaurants and bars. They could even choose to live car-free, Manoian said.


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Outdoor cafes and numerous storefront businesses will give people things to do without jumping in a car.

These young people will become invested in their community and become future entrepreneurs, civic leaders and innovators, he said.

There is a compelling need for housing that is neither the most- nor least-expensive, said Groton Land Use Director Michelle Collette.

Groton has affordable housing for those who meet income guidelines and plenty of expensive large homes.

"The need is for what's in the middle, Collette said -- those who do not qualify for affordable housing and do not want or cannot afford a large home.

"As long as they can find a place to live," the town is attractive for young families, she said. The school system, open space and cultural opportunities are appealing.

Millennials need more than an affordable and enjoyable place to live. They have to cover their expenses.

One of the biggest challenges millennials face is finding capital, Morse said. They tend to be entrepreneurs rather than doctors and lawyers, and most don't have much money or credit history.

"No bank is going to give you that money," he said.

Main Street in Ayer has a covered sidewalk and numerous storefront businesses within steps of the commuter rail. SUN / ANNE O’CONNOR
Main Street in Ayer has a covered sidewalk and numerous storefront businesses within steps of the commuter rail. SUN / ANNE O'CONNOR

His business does not require lots of capital since it is mainly information-technology servicing, he said. As an older millennial, he is a good risk. Morse is a veteran, has work experience and good credit.

He failed a million times, he said, and kept at it until he got his business going.

Josiah and Linda Coleman run a catering business, cafe and boutique at Salt and Light in Groton. The two 33-year-olds with two children wanted to stay in town. He was raised in Groton, and she grew up in Pepperell.

"I love Groton," he said. They were both scurrying around their restaurant, down a cook, and preparing for graduation parties later in the day.

The business, he said before heading back to the kitchen, is doing exceptionally well.

Many new businesses will not succeed.

The ability to fail and not accrue huge debts is important for millennials in general, Manoian said. Creative funding and inexpensive places like to run a business helps.

An investment group might be more able to fund some of the "risky millennial stuff" than a regular bank, he said. If the first business fails, the entrepreneur can still try the next thing.

One way to keep things less expensive is by not paying big-city rental rates. Central New England towns have historic buildings that can be repurposed into creative spaces that include co-work areas.

Parker pointed to the recently renovated Pepperell Place, a multi-tenant business space in an old building.

Downtown Pepperell features shops and restaurants and access to a rail trail. When town officials think about how to attract millennials, a vibrant street
Downtown Pepperell features shops and restaurants and access to a rail trail. When town officials think about how to attract millennials, a vibrant street scene, affordable work space, transportation and recreation come to mind. SUN / ANNE O'CONNOR
 

So, how are local towns doing with enticing millennials? Groton provided some numbers.

Based on the most recent available town census, 93 of the 4,107 listed households, 2.3 percent, were headed by someone born between 1991 and 1995.

The 2010 U.S. census shows 8.2 percent of the total population of 10,646, 875 people, were between the ages of 15 and 19.

Follow Anne O'Connor on Twitter @a1oconnor.