As an intern at an economic development nonprofit near her hometown in central Illinois, Tara Vornkahl discovered a passion for helping people with ideas connect with the resources they needed. But the nonprofit couldn’t afford to hire her, so in 2012, desperately in need of a job and a plan, she prayed. And then she Googled. She’d heard that Dallas was affordable, great for grads, and that the startup and entrepreneur communities were booming.
“I really wanted to be part of that, but I didn’t know how,” Vornkahl says. “It was funny. It’s kind of like God was listening.”
She found the Dallas Regional Chamber. She did a phone interview, then drove to Chicago to meet with the Chamber’s senior vice president while he was there on business. When she got the job, she had two weeks to pack and move. She threw herself into work, connecting with the Dallas Entrepreneur Center and volunteering with a church. Still, it wasn’t until Vornkahl moved to the Village Apartments, where she’s now lived for a year and a half, that things clicked.
“It’s like this little nest of protection,” she says.
Dallas has long been a haven for transplants. As the city’s population grew over the past 40 years, so did the number of young, educated singles. Between the 1970s and 1990s, the net migration of adults between the ages of 25 and 29 to Dallas rose each decade, though it declined in the 2000s. And since the late 1960s, the Village Apartments, the city’s largest apartment property, with 7,263 units and nearly 10,000 residents, has played a role in sheltering the upwardly mobile.
Village residents in the ’70s and ’80s recall wild pool parties and disco dancing at the Clubhouse. Today, amenities include yoga classes and wine tastings. Vornkahl doesn’t see herself leaving anytime soon. Nine months ago, she came out to friends, family, and a few coworkers, and found the city so accepting that she calls it the best decision she ever made.
“It’s something that is scary and so liberating at the same time,” Vornkahl says.
And she still has things she wants to accomplish—like being a voice for LGBTQ young professionals and helping lead the Chamber’s educational initiatives.
“I think people forget that you can pave your own future.”