Lakeland Scores Well in Survey of Best Cities for New College Grads

A new survey seems to bode well for renewed efforts to get students at local colleges to stay in Lakeland after graduation. Lakeland ranks 17th in the nation in GoodCall’s list of “2017 Best Cities for New Grads.”

GoodCall, which says its “goal is to help consumers make the best decisions about important things,” evaluated 589 towns and cities based on qualities important to new graduates looking for a place to begin a career: affordability, relative salary, entry-level jobs available, and local amenities. (See more on their methodology below.)

Lakeland was joined by two other Florida cities among the top 50. Fort Myers came in third, largely because it has the highest proportion of entry-level job openings in the country. Largo ranked 41st.

Most of the communities in the top 50 are mid-sized cities, few of which are in the Northeast, noted GoodCall, which is based in Fort Mill, S.C.

Metrics reported for Lakeland by GoodCall include:

AFFORDABILITY (percent of household income spent on rent): 29.5. Cities in the top 10 ranged from 25.3 to 31.5.

AMENITIES (per 1,000 residents, based on data from 2015 American Fact Finder’s American Community Survey): 2.7. Cities in the top 10 ranged from 2.7 to 4.4. The highest amenities number was 5.6 for Santa Barbara, Calif., which ranked 11th overall.

MEDIAN SALARY, BACHELOR’S DEGREE: $46,219. Cities in the top 10 ranged from $41,639 (Canton, Ohio) to $96,175 (Mountain View, Calif., an outlier).

INCREASED SALARY POTENTIAL: 44 percent. Cities in the top 10 ranged from 34 percent to 68 percent. “Salary potential expresses the median salary for residents with a bachelor’s degree as compared to the overall median for the area,” GoodCall wrote.

AVAILABLE JOBS PER 1,000 RESIDENTS: 17.5. Cities in the top 10 ranged from 11.7 (Gastonia, N.C.) to 45.4 (Fort Myers)

“We are very encouraged to be listed as one of the 2017 Best Cities for New Grads in the Country,” said Steve Scruggs, president of the Lakeland Economic Development Council. “Many of the cities listed are suburbs of large, progressive cities like Charlotte, Dallas, Austin, San Francisco, Chicago and Portland or are university towns.”

A division of LEDC called YLakeland has a mission to recruit and retain talented young professionals. LEDC announced this week it had received funding via GiveWell Community Foundation to strengthen YLakeland’s efforts on Lakeland’s five college campuses.

The new programs include the hiring of 10 on-campus “brand ambassadors” to promote Lakeland’s amenities, pushing for more internships at local businesses, tutoring in “soft skills” needed for employability and redesigning the Ylakeland.com website as a city guide for students with the theme “Everyone’s an Insider.”

GoodCall’s methodology, according to its website:

GoodCall analysts looked at 589 cities and town and weighed four metrics to determine the rankings for Best Cities for New Grads. Those metrics were:

• Affordability (the median gross rent as a percentage of household income from the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey 1-year estimates), which accounted for 30% of the score.

• Comparative salary – median earnings in the past 12 months for 25+ population with a bachelor’s degree as a percentage of total median earnings for the area in the past 12 months – which made up 30% of the score.

• The number of available entry-level jobs posted on Indeed.com, which accounted for 30%.

• Amenities (the amount of accommodation and food services as well as arts, entertainment, and recreation sites) per 1000 people, which was 10%.