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Getting Connected

Chamber’s Young Professionals
keep busy with year-round events

Focus is on civic involvement,
business networking

By Laura Hodges
Contributing Writer

For adults in their 20s and 30s, living in a small town can feel isolated, lonely and detached from others in their peer group.
It can be difficult to find friends or meaningful activities.
How can a young person find his or her niche and become engaged in community life?
In Madison, Ind., the answer is the Madison Future: Young Professionals Network. In 2009, the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce recognized the need for young business people to network with each other. David Collier, who was then executive vice president of the chamber, called together a group of young people that included Trevor Crafton, Stephan DeLorenzo, Jenny Eggenspiller, Abbe Ernstes, Casey Goode, Corey Murphy and Steve Rizzo.

Young Professionals
Upcoming Events

• May 19: Golf & Grill, 5:30 p.m., Cozy Acres Golf Complex
• June 16: Heritage Trail Walk, 5:30 p.m.
• July 21: Membership Meeting & Networking, 5:30 p.m., location TBA
• August: Professional Development Event, date and location TBA
• Sept. 15: FoodStock Event for Girls Inc., details TBA
• Oct. 15: Booth for Soup Stew Chili & Brew
• Nov. 23: Turkeys for the Salvation Army, details TBA
• Dec. 3: Christmas Crawl, 6 p.m., details TBA

They met several times over the summer and organized a kickoff meeting for the new organization on Oct. 26, 2009. More than 50 people attended that first meeting at the Livery Stable, which was open to people ages 18-42. Most of those who attended became members. During 2010 the organization grew to more than 40 paid members.
“We’ve gotten such a big response,” said Crafton. “It’s reassuring to know there are young professionals out there. There will be a new wave of educated, tactful, entrepreneurial-minded YPs out there,” he predicted.
The governing council currently includes co-chairmen Ernstes and Jake Stuart; Crafton, who is vice chairman; Goode, as secretary; and Ben Foley, Eggenspiller and Murphy.
The young professionals program covers three key areas: civic involvement, economic development, and social and professional networking.
Members of the group have volunteered their time to help at community events such as the River City Music Festival, Soup Stew Chili & Brew and the chamber’s Santa train ride.
This year they initiated a new award program for young adults called “5 under 40.” On Jan. 24, they recognized Shannon Dattilo, Molly Dodge, Joe Jenner, Andy Lytle and Carl Risk II as outstanding young professionals who are doing great things in the community.
The group has offered several professional development seminars, with topics such as business etiquette and marketing during tough financial times.
And some of the group’s events are purely social – such as their “Thirsty Thursday” gatherings, where members gather after work. Despite the event name, “I’ve been very adamant that this is not a drinking club,” said co-president Stuart. “We’re very pro-family.” He said the events are almost always at a venue that welcomes children. For example, on May 19 the group will gather for a “golf and grill” event at Cozy Acres Golf Complex, which is owned by Crafton and his wife.
Crafton said networking is the main benefit he’s gotten from the organization. “I have been able to identify the many young professionals in this area. I was unaware of the younger generation. A few of them are affiliated with the Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Partners, Main Street Program and so on, but not many.”
Ernstes, who is director of leadership giving at Hanover College, agrees. “The people in the council and others in the organization are people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. When I was new to Madison, I didn’t have a place to go to meet new people. I’ve moved a lot in my life and I’m sensitive to new people.”
She added, “It’s been fun because we get to see different walks of life.”
Stuart, who is laboratory manager at Madison Optical Co., said he wants to facilitate a “seamless motion” between the younger and older generations. “We’re not professing to be coming out of college and knowing it all. We’re trying to learn from the people above us, and to mentor people down below. It will benefit Madison not to have a disparity between the young people and the older people.”
Murphy, who is executive director of the Economic Development Partners as well as an early proponent of the young professional group, linked the group to Madison’s overall economic development.
Murphy said, “Communities that retain and attract talent have a competitive
advantage. Local businesses compete for maintenance technicians,
marketing professionals, engineers, doctors, etc. The YP seeks to
nurture that effort.”
He also quoted from Richard Florida, an urban studies theorist: “Jobs are clearly important. Gen Y members ranked the availability of jobs second when asked what would keep them in their current location and fourth in terms of their overall satisfaction with their community. In both cases, the highest-ranked factor was the ability to meet people and make friends. Makes perfect sense, since Gen Y intuitively understands what economic sociologists have documented: Vibrant social networks are key to landing jobs, moving forward in your career, and one’s broader personal happiness.”
Organization members are community-minded as well as career-minded, however.
The group is currently working out plans to form a mentoring relationship with area high school students. There is also a volunteer fair in the works, in partnership with Ivy Tech Community College and the Jefferson County Clearinghouse. They expect this to be a flagship event for the organization.
Madison Future: Young Professional Network is open to those 18-42 years old, although older members are accepted if they feel at home in the group. Residents of surrounding communities are also welcome to join. Dues are $45 per year, payable to the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce, 301 E. Main St.

• To contact the YP officers, use the email address madisonfutureyp@gmail.com.

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