MAMARONECK, N.Y. -- Mamaroneck has more than enough activities and destinations for Tara Ready, but she still plans on leaving the area soon.
Ready, a rising senior at Mamaroneck High School, expects to follow a growing trend of young people leaving Westchester County because of the high expenses here and also a desire to experience something new.
"I'd return someday, but it's really expensive here and I'd probably go somewhere cheaper," she said.
Ready talked about her plans over lunch at Chat 19 with her classmate Mark Alexander.
"I think Westchester attracts parents because of the good school system," said Alexander, who is also entering his senior year at Mamaroneck High School. "I think I'd move out of Westchester and go find another suburb just to change the atmosphere."
Both Ready and Alexander are leaning toward attending New York University, but don't plan on living in the city. Alexander doesn't mind living in a suburb like Westchester, but feels he has done everything there is to do and wants something new.
Keeping young people in Westchester has been an increasingly important issue facing the county, according to Laurence Gottlieb, director of economic development for the ocouny executive's office. "The first step is admitting that we have a problem," Gottlieb said.
According to U.S. Census data, Westchester County's age demographic hovers slightly above the national average by roughly one percent. The number translates into younger people leaving the county while older residents adhere to the county's historic niche as a desirable bedroom community.
"The county used to just be a place for people to sleep," he said. "But that is changing."The issue is a featured talking point for county business organizations and was a pivotal short-term goal in a recent Business Council of Westchester report.
Gottlieb said the American south has proven to be a popular location for young people to move to, including places like Austin, Texas. Popular and attractive events such as music festivals such as South by Southwest have become staples of the region and Gottlieb said the county could learn to adapt similar initiatives to make the area more appealing for younger demographics.
"The music festival in Austin is one of the hottest things in the state," Gottlieb said. "What's our own thing? We need to find out."
Gottlieb said Westchester's biggest problem is a failure to obtain returns on heavy investments. With the county's schools some of the most expensive in the country with roughly $22,000 spent per student, young people then relocate after graduating and become assets to other areas.
"It's a business issue," Gottlieb said. "And Westchester needs to look at it and think about how to sell itself as a place to be."
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.