Bangor Savings Bank’s donation jump starts young professionals group.

LEWISTON – Bangor Savings Bank’s recent investment in Lewiston-Auburn isn’t something that will be reflected in its balance sheet at the end of its fiscal year. The results are expected elsewhere.

Like on the boards of local charities. In the volunteer ranks of trade associations. In press releases announcing staff promotions.

Two weeks ago, the bank wrote a check for $10,000 to the Young Professionals of the Lewiston Auburn Area, a new group associated with the local Chamber created to foster social, professional and civic development among young people.

“The point is to develop a plan for leadership in the community,” said Yellow Light Breen, a senior vice president with the bank who made the presentation. “People are looking for support, to meet people, grow their careers and friendships, and this is a way to do it.”

The bank is tapping into a swell of new associations geared toward young professionals. The trend began in Bangor two years ago with its Fusion group and has spread to Portland, the mid-coast and other areas. YPLAA (pronounced y-play) formed last spring, and more than 200 people – most under 40 – have attended each of its last two events.

“We would have done this on our own,” said Chamber President Chip Morrison of the group’s development. “But this really helps.”

The money will be used to fund an intern’s position for about 12 hours per week to help develop programming for YPLAA. The group has an 11-member steering committee and five committees, each appointed with tasks.

Morrison notes that the group has a fresh perspective on how to get things done. All the communication is done electronically. The first value it lists in its mission statement is to remain flexible; if something doesn’t work then change course. The last value listed is to have fun.

“It’s a very energized group,” he said.

Breen said the bank chose to support young professional groups because they help communities thrive. That in turn benefits Bangor Savings Bank.

“Banking is a derivative industry,” said Breen. “As the companies we do business with do well, we do well.”

He approached Morrison a few months ago about sponsorship, impressed that the Chamber was willing to provide the structure for YPLAA, despite its small staff. The bank had already targeted L-A for additional investment.

“We sensed as we’ve been talking to the communities over the last three years that momentum went beyond civic boosterism,” said Breen, noting the Bates Mill development, downtown gateway projects and the cities’ collaboration. “A lot of tangible things are going on inside and out; it signals a new era here.”

Both Morrison and Breen are hopeful that YPLAA members will form solid business and personal networks. That connectivity will help keep Maine’s best and brightest in the state and contribute to their local economies.

The bank expects to support other young professional groups throughout the state in the coming year; it already made donations in Bangor and Portland. Breen estimates the bank’s overall support will total $100,000.

“We’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do and for the right reasons,” said Breen. “Without these leaders, we won’t have a vibrant economy.”

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