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Joe Downtown: ‘Millennial migration’ to Las Vegas predicted

Updated Thursday, March 21, 2013 | 9:20 a.m.

Matt Heller

Matt Heller

Map of The Beat Coffeehouse

The Beat Coffeehouse

520 Fremont Street, Las Vegas

Another day downtown, another interesting character finds his way into The Beat coffeehouse.

But none may have found themselves in as familiar territory as Matt Heller.

See, Heller is considered an expert on millennials, who are also sometimes referred to as the Echo Boom generation or Generation Y. These are young people born sometime from 1980 to 2000. They are distinguished by a need to do something purposeful – or so say blogs, Internet definitions and the like.

Downtown Las Vegas is attractive to millennials. After Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh announced more than two years ago he was moving his headquarters here, an army of young people has taken root downtown via Hsieh’s Downtown Project and numerous relate endeavors. By the end of this year, another 1,300 Zappos employees will be working out of the old City Hall, two blocks from The Beat.

Heller earned his millennial bona fides identifying generational trends for companies and organizations such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Ketel One Vodka, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Adidas and New Line Cinema. He also has created film and television shows for millennials for networks such as VH1, ABC and Lifetime.

Heller believes that beyond Las Vegas, most people have no inkling about what’s going on in downtown Las Vegas.

But he bets they will. And soon.

“This is going to be the 21st-century watering hole for the millennial migration,” Heller said, sitting at the bar of The Beat.

All the elements he believes millennials are drawn to “are happening right here, right now.”

“There’s a deliberate sense of community at the center of everything that’s happening,” Heller says. “These are digital natives and this is a digital environment. Not only that, but millennials seek a true sense of purpose. For a generation to trade in their cars and keep their computers, downtown Las Vegas promises the opportunity to walk more and still collide with other interesting people.”

Finally, Heller says, “if all goes as planned your neighbors will be the kind of people you would have taken a road trip with to get here – similar enough to carry on long conversations but different enough to keep it interesting when no one likes the song on the radio, not that they listen to radio anymore.”

Heller still lives in Los Angeles but is getting a place in The Ogden, which he describes as a sort of embassy “in an emerging green zone surrounded by a war zone that will become the fertile ground from which a millennial community will emerge and thrive.”

Having spent 15 years identifying millennial trends, Heller says he is in the process of writing a book about a generation he finds intrinsically interesting, especially those in Las Vegas.

“There’s something to be said for an East Coast college grad to cross two mountain ranges to figure out what they really want to do, who they are and grow a life that feels uniquely their own,” he says.

Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown, he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts building.

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