Oxford is giving retired school teacher Suzanne Burke the red carpet treatment — showing her the sights, wining and dining her. Because Oxford knows if it doesn't pull out all the stops to lure baby boomers like 60-year-old Burke, other cities will.
"It may definitely work to bring me here," says Burke.
America's 78 million baby boomers are an economic gold mine: forecasted to spend an average $36,000 apiece this year. Small wonder, then, that cities are hustling them — states, too.
Alabama anticipated that boomer market 20 years ago, figuring if boomers had a reason to visit, when the time came to retire, they just might come back and stay.
Which is why Alabama's retirement funds built 18 deluxe golf courses.
"It's our job to go out and find those people and get them here, once they do come back to live," says John Cannon, president of the Sunbelt Golf Corp.
Thomasville, Ga., with charm aplenty, knows charm is not enough to attract boomers. So it has hired an expert on boomers.
"It's a huge market," says Don Warren. "They just move into the community and start spending."
Warren tells Thomasville how to go about recruiting the 20 percent of boomers who pull up stakes and move when they retire.
"You're going to be in competition with those other communities, so you got to do a little better job," says real estate broker Allan Dear.
"I wouldn't call it a commodity that we harvest, but certainly retirees can be good for our community," says Thomasville Assistant City Manager Lynn Williams.
Not everyone welcomes the prospect of boomer retirees, fearing if they do come, local real estate prices — already high — will soar. The experts say that is that short-sighted.
"What we have coming up is the biggest transfer of wealth that's ever occurred," says Don Warren. "They are what's going to be driving the economic engine."
Boomers are in the drivers' seat and loving every minute of it as communities compete trying to turn gray into gold.
"I feel like a rock star," says Burke.