Cities get reputations, both good and bad. For example, my home town of Boston routinely ranks high on the list of America's best places for singles. More specifically, singles that are looking to hook up with other singles and therefore not be single anymore.
Although it boasts three Starbucks shops and a new Trader Joes, Palmdale, CA, isn't even close to having that kind of cachet with young people. Despite looking to fill some of the coolest engineering jobs on the planet at its Skunk Works operation based in this desert city 60 miles from Los Angeles, Lockheed Martin says that it is difficult to recruit college graduates to work there. Of the extremely competitive job offers that the aerospace company says it has extended recently to new grads, only about one in ten students has accepted.
One theory is that Lockeed is competing with Boeing and others for the same small pool of extremely talented engineering graduates. But Lockheed says that it sees much higher acceptance rates for positions in places like Atlanta and Fort Worth, where the nightlife is certainly hotter.
"There is a social life in Palmdale?" quipped one new-hire, who graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with an EE degree and hired on at Lockheed in January 2004. "It's terrible," says a mechanical engineering graduate who transferred to LM Aero in June 2002. "Despite having a great group of new hires that live locally, the city is seriously lacking in any type of respectable and creative social scene."
But although these young people have opted to live in a place that isn't exactly happening on the social front, they are going to be the ones who ultimately go places. That's because they valued the opportunity to work on cutting-edge technology more than a specific zip code. "As a new engineer, I wanted to work for a company that offered a challenging career path and that made products that I felt proud to say I had a small part in making. So when you put that all together, LM Aero-Palmdale Skunk Works was the logical choice," says a new hire with a BSME from Berkeley.
Plus, they're finding ways to make the most of the situation. They've formed a club, called the Lments, which sponsors a host of activities from rock climbing, to desert bike rides, to checking out Sunset Boulevard. Some simply bite the bullet and commute from as far away as L.A., which did make the top ten list for singles. And others say they don't need even a single Starbucks to be happy. Just proves location doesn't always matter most.