LEWISTON – It bears a resemblance to its parent organization – service to community, professional development, networking – but this is not your father’s chamber.
The Young Professionals of the Lewiston-Auburn Area, a group of working people from college age to near 40, is holding its first networking reception June 6.
The event, set at Gritty’s in Auburn, is intended to get the word out about the new association, launched by the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s already penciled in on my calendar,” said Chris Brann, a commercial lender with TD Banknorth who attended a couple of the group’s first meetings. “It’s a nice initiative, getting young people involved in the community, developing resources and providing an opportunity for networking – I think that’s a significant part of it.”
About 50 young people have been meeting informally for the past two months to launch the YPLLA. The impetus came from chamber President Chip Morrison and directors, who saw a developing scarcity of young people in leadership roles.
“I look around at board rooms everywhere, and all the people look like me,” said Morrison, who turned 60 a while ago. “Organizations throughout the community are facing a leadership transition. We’re trying to get young people involved before there’s a void.”
The YPLLA is focusing in three areas: networking, professional development and mentoring. Morrison said the mentoring appears to be two-way, with YPLLA possibly mentoring high school students while more seasoned chamber members mentor the younger professionals.
Brann, 27, said he thinks the group will focus on issues that are particularly important to younger professionals. For instance, professional development topics are different for people with only a few years experience in the workplace versus people who’ve already spent 15 or 20 years in a career.
And there’s the benefit of networking. Brann moved here just a year ago from Portland.
“I think it’s important to get involved in a community,” said Brann, who sits on the board of the American Red Cross. “This group allows me to meet people in the accounting profession, or working for law firms, which can help me professionally, but it’s also just nice to get to know what other people are doing in the community.”
Justin Hartford started a photography and design business in January. He, too, plans to attend the kickoff event.
Although it doesn’t hurt to get your name out there when starting a new business, Hartford said that’s not the main motivation for his involvement with the group. The 31-year-old entrepreneur said the appeal for him is the opportunity to network and socialize with like-minded professionals.
“Some young people don’t feel comfortable going to a chamber function, or don’t know how to become involved,” he said. “I think this will take off once it starts rolling.”