Lawrence is one of the better cities in the country for attracting military retirees, according to a new study released Monday. And now area leaders are saying to expect more discussions about how the city can make retirees a bigger part of the community’s economic development efforts.
Calling all military retirees
Here are the top 10 small metro areas for military retirees, as selected by USAA and Military.com.
- San Angelo, Texas
- State College, Pa.
- Abilene, Texas
- Johnstown, Penn.
- Sherman, Texas
- La Crosse, Wis.
- Cheyenne, Wyo.
- Lebanon, Pa.
- Pascagoula, Miss.
A new report by USAA — a financial services firm for military members — and Military.com found that Lawrence is the fourth-best small metro area for military retirees.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” said Jerome Hanson, a military retiree who has been living in Lawrence since 1970. “Lawrence is good for retirees of all sorts, as long as you have a good fixed income.”
Lawrence was ranked high for its educational opportunities, its proximity to VA hospitals and a military base in Leavenworth, and its housing costs.
The new ranking has several city leaders re-introducing ideas that the city should be more proactive in recruiting retirees to live in the city.
“I absolutely want to see us add attracting retirees to our economic development plan,” said City Commissioner Aron Cromwell. “I think that is critical for us. We have to have a multi-faceted approach to economic development.”
Earlier this year, leaders with Douglas County Senior Services and the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce unveiled a new local study that came to much the same conclusion. The report found Lawrence had several attributes that gave it a chance to attract retirees, including: its status as a major university community; proximity to a large metro area, and housing costs that are less than those in coastal areas.
The report also highlighted a Georgia study that found a typical retired couple had the same economic impact as creating 3.4 manufacturing jobs.
But the report was unveiled in January, and the idea of creating a formal program to attract retirees hasn’t yet been proposed at City Hall. That may change in the future. John Glassman, executive director of Douglas County Senior Services, said a committee of the chamber of commerce has reviewed the report and is expected to ask the chamber’s board to make a recommendation in early 2011 on a retiree recruitment plan.
Cromwell said the benefits of having more retirees in town will be numerous. He said many retirees who can afford to move often bring new wealth into a community, and also have time to donate to causes and agencies. Plus as people retire at an earlier age, it is becoming more likely for retirees to start their own businesses.
“What it amounts to is they bring a lifetime of savings into our community, and that is new money coming into Lawrence,” Cromwell said. “And they bring a lifetime of experiences that we can really benefit from too.”
The new military retiree study found that military retirees can be particularly beneficial to a community because of their relatively young age. The average retirement age for an enlisted member of the military is 42 and is for an officer it is 46.
Glassman said the city, chamber and other stakeholders now need to determine what a formal recruitment program should look like, how it would be funded, and who would lead it.
“Somebody has to step up and say: ‘We ought to do this,’” Glassman said.