Networking groups give young talent a strong voice.
Younger generations forming the new workforce have many options to consider when relocating for a job, and East Central Indiana’s infrastructure of organizations designed to set young professionals up for success is a true selling point.
An atmosphere of hospitality and support often is a deciding factor in attracting new residents – and in many cases converting them into new business owners, as well.
Take Kyle and Amanda Reninger, owners of Sea Salt & Cinnamon, a Muncie-based vegan bakery that sells sweet and savory goods to places like Ball State Dining and IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital. Originally from St. Petersburg, Florida, they settled in here after Amanda attended graduate school at Ball State University. The Reningers were each working for local small businesses when they decided to start their own venture together.
Though they were already established as residents, Muncie Young Professionals (MYP) added another layer of community, they say.
“We were looking for networking opportunities and started going to their events,â€ Kyle says. “We made all sorts of new connections, but it wasn’t like those business-card-swap type of things, it was more like relationships and friendships evolving independently. We felt like we were a part of Muncie and, in turn, wanted to be a part of building the community.”
Beyond continuing commitments to MYP events, Kyle has since served on the organization’s board.
East Central Indiana’s professional organizations form the warp and weft of its communities, encouraging those who relocate to build relationships and providing a great resource for those looking to start careers or get new businesses off the ground.
“Muncie Young Professionals has played an instrumental role in becoming acquainted with the Muncie community,â€ says MYP President Haley LeFiles. “Being new to the area and fresh out of college, MYP was a great way for me to make connections and learn more about the community. As a result of social and professional development events hosted by MYP, I’ve made many friendships and for that, I am thankful.”
In Marion, Grant County Young Professionals is dedicated to building and growing a better economy by supporting a vigorous and healthy workforce. The group holds monthly networking coffees and job fairs, among its other community events, getting people involved at many levels. They also have a unique program called Links to Locals that partners people relocating to the area with a member in the community. “We used to have a really robust Welcome Wagonprogram, but that doesn’t happen anymore,â€ says Mikayla Marazzi of the Grant County Economic Growth Council.
“It can be hard when you’re considering relocating if you don’t have someone who can really answer the questions you have about the place. When we pair people up, it links two people together for a real life connection.”
In Richmond, HYPE (Helping Young Professionals Engage) helps its members break barriers they feel exist for them professionally. The group recently merged with the Wayne County Area Chamber of Commerce.
“We provide opportunities for young professionals’ development,â€ says Roxie Deer, board chair. “Some younger people don’t know what the chamber is, what its purpose is, or feel intimidated. We want to make sure they have a place at the table and to provide networking but also events that are inviting to everyone.”
Technology has changed the way people do everything, and that includes networking. Part of HYPE’s mission is to get people talking face to face, and the events they create reflect that. The group hosts a wine festival, Adulting 101 classes, workshops on topics like building credit and retirement, social events like dinners and karaoke nights – and some more serious events like a mayoral debate.
Mark and Megan Broeker got involved in HYPE shortly after their relocation to Richmond, first as members, and later, Mark served as committee chair for professional development and Megan as committee chair for social events.
“The most memorable positive experience I have had so far with HYPE was when the professional development committee organized a mayoral debate,â€ Megan says. “This was a pivotal turning point for HYPE as it got our name out to the general public and allowed others to see what young professionals can do and that their voices can be heard. We received so many positive compliments with this event and have since been encouraged and invited to do more community events similar to this one.”