Older workers left behind when companies move back to the city?

As some companies choose to return to the big city, are older workers left behind?

After decades of big businesses leaving the city for the suburbs, U.S. firms have begun a new era of corporate urbanism. Nearly 200 Fortune 500 companies are currently headquartered in the top 50 cities. Many others are staying put in the suburbs but opening high-profile satellite offices in nearby cities, sometimes aided by tax breaks and a recession that tempered downtown rents. And upstart companies are following suit, according to urban planners. The bottom line: companies are under pressure to establish an urban presence that projects an image of dynamism and innovation…

For longtime employees, however, corporate moves to the city mean longer commutes and disrupted schedules and family life. And the corporate quest for youth and innovation can leave some workers feeling slightly unwelcome.

“We joked about the older suburbanites being excluded from the new [business] model,” said Jon Scherf, age 42, a marketing professional who left Hillshire shortly before its December 2012 move to downtown Chicago. “They would’ve been happy to have me but they’re also happy to bring in new blood.”…

For longtime employees, it has been a more complicated switch. Melissa Napier, treasurer and senior VP of investor relations at Hillshire, bought a house in Downers Grove in 2007 and lives there with her husband and two sons. While she now attends more social and networking events downtown, her commute, once a 10-minute drive, now gets her home at 7:30, an hour later than before…

But the employers that sought them out in the city are unlikely to follow them back to the suburbs, said Mr. Phillips of the Urban Land Institute.

Now that I think about it, I don’t remember Richard Florida, known for analyzing the young creative class that wants urban amenities, discussing the possible impact on older workers. I suppose the argument could be made that attracting young workers, wherever they might work, would help raise all boats. But, as long as the perception continues that suburbs are better places for raising families due to their schools and safer spaces, this divide between younger/urban workers and older/suburban workers may continue.

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