By Jeff Sherman Staff Writer Published Jan 30, 2006 at 5:01 AM

Cities all over America and all over the world are gunning for the younger worker. Next Generation Consulting, Inc., in the Madison area, is doing some of the country's most cutting-edge research on generational differences, workforce shortages, work/life strategies, talent recruitment and retention and "brand prints" for communities -- stuff that seriously matters to young and young-thinking employees.

Rebecca Ryan, the founder of NGC, has a keen eye for trends -- especially those among young talent -- and a vibrant presentation style that has made corporate America and corporate Milwaukee listen up.

A former professional basketball player in Europe, Ryan works hard, plays hard and still drinks her coffee from a mug that says, "Well behaved women rarely make history." She'll be in Milwaukee on Feb. 1 for a Young Professionals of Milwaukee (YPM) event at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, and she recently took some time to talk to in this latest Milwaukee Talks.

OMC: Please give us the two-minute Rebecca Ryan "life story."

R.R.: I was raised in West Bend. Dad was a metal bender at the West Bend Company. Mom was a teacher who stayed at home to raise my brother and me. Grad of WB East High School (go, Suns!) Drake U - Economics and International Relations with University Honors. Frustrated Gen X'er who had five jobs in four years after college and realized there had to be a translator between Baby Boomers and X'ers at work. Started NGC on April Fools Day 1998 and grew it in eight years to a $3.2 million company.

OMC: What's Next Generation Consulting all about?

R.R. "Research for reaching out." (We are about) engaging the next generation (at work, in cities, in the arts). Simply, market research among young people.

OMC: How can cities compete for talent and make themselves more viable for 20-35-year-olds?

R.R.: The seven indexes, developed by Next Generation Consulting. They are based on 43 metro metrics measuring the qualities of a city identified of importance to young professionals across the nation. They are vitality, earning, learning, social capital, cost of lifestyle, after-hours and around town.

OMC: Do you agree that what younger people want in a city isn't too different than what everyone wants out of a city?

R.R.: Broadly, yes. But the strongest corollary is actually between single adults and empty nest boomers who want the same active, around town lifestyle.

OMC: What are the biggest trends for the rest of the decade for careers and corporate culture?

R.R.: For U.S. corporations -- especially those that are goods producing -- will continue to face stiffer and stiffer global competition, especially from China. Western Europe will continue to give the U.S. a serious run for its money on all things design (think IKEA).

Companies like Google who do right by their people -- i.e. 10 percent of their time spent on non-core projects -- will continue to be rewarded by the migration of really big brains.

Borders will mean less and less to real people (we'll travel more for work, for fun, etc.) and more and more to politicians who are loosing their footing in a changing world.

OMC: What does Milwaukee have that other cities don't?

R.R.: The lakefront, Jeff Sherman,, YPM.

OMC: Ah, shucks. Thanks. What do we lack?

R.R.: An understanding that we're missing a huge opportunity by not doing something drastic to increase every citizen's skill level by one level. That's what Ireland did, and now they have the largest concentration of creatives in the world.

OMC: Define success.

R.R.: For me, it's learning, loving and laughing. Having good conversations with smart people, being active and eating and drinking well. A viable means by which to make a living.

OMC: Last concert you attended?

R.R.: O and Celine Dion in Las Vegas last week.

OMC: And now for the kicker. If a community/city hires your company to analyze it, how do you tell them they suck, if they do?

R.R.: I tell them, "You suck." I had to do that for a client last year, and to their credit, they followed my recommendations and one of them won an award for her work.

OMC: One more, what can we expect at your YPM event?

R.R.: Learning and laughing ... I love Milwaukee!

For more on Rebecca Ryan's YPM event, click here.

Jeff Sherman Staff Writer

A life-long and passionate community leader and Milwaukeean, Jeff Sherman is a co-founder of OnMilwaukee.

He grew up in Wauwatosa and graduated from Marquette University, as a Warrior. He holds an MBA from Cardinal Stritch University, and is the founding president of Young Professionals of Milwaukee (YPM)/Fuel Milwaukee.

Early in his career, Sherman was one of youngest members of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, and currently is involved in numerous civic and community groups - including board positions at The Wisconsin Center District, Wisconsin Club and Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.  He's honored to have been named to The Business Journal's "30 under 30" and Milwaukee Magazine's "35 under 35" lists.  

He owns a condo in Downtown and lives in greater Milwaukee with his wife Stephanie, his son, Jake, and daughter Pierce. He's a political, music, sports and news junkie and thinks, for what it's worth, that all new movies should be released in theaters, on demand, online and on DVD simultaneously.

He also thinks you should read OnMilwaukee each and every day.