May 26, 2017

Young central Vermont professionals get connected

BARRE — The Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce recently hosted the inaugural meeting of the Central Vermont Young Professionals Group — a coalition of people under the age of 40 who want to share their entrepreneurial energy and ideas

The group started as a Facebook entity under the auspices of Mark Browning and Reuben Stone from Stone and Browning, a property management company in Barre.

Browning and Stone were aware of robust young professionals groups in Rutland and Burlington, but no similar organization existed for central Vermont.

Rutland Young Professionals, for instance, was founded in 2013, charges a minimal yearly fee of $25 to belong and is a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with an active membership and a brick-and-mortar address on Cottage Street. With old fashioned commitment and hard work, the Central Vermont Young Professionals Group looks forward to a similar vibrant future.

Earlier this year they formed a steering committee to gauge interest in a potential network geared to smaller businesses, microbusinesses and new startups. Collaborating with Revitalizing Waterbury, the Barre Partnership, and the Chamber of Commerce, they assembled a mailing list of possible interested parties, initially sending out a survey using SurveyMonkey. They received 150 responses.

One enthusiastic member is Nick Landry, 31, a Barre native and assistant to Steven Mackenzie, the city’s manager. Landry left the area to attend Endicott College in the Boston area and found “a vibrant entrepreneurial network of people getting into the business world — reaching out as needed to get started.”

Back at home in Barre, there was no obvious place to network with others in Landry’s situation. “An association like this has been definitely needed for a long time. There is ongoing attrition in our local population. Young people grow up here then leave for college and never come back. There was no vehicle for networking, which is a huge thing in business — getting the help when and where needed.”

“This is a huge resource,” he added, “for people who are starting a business and need help with growth: from financing, to hiring staff, job training and marketing — so they don’t get stuck behind the cash register working in the business with no time to work at the business.”

The steering committee for the Central Vermont Young Professionals is comprised of Alicia and Mark Browning and Stone; Paige Johnson from Insights Marketing, and Tonya Barnett from the Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce.

According to Bill Moore, chamber president and CEO, the new group will provide guidance to potential entrepreneurs about how to set up a business. The chamber can help a new business owner understand state and federal requirements and regulations and help to prepare a business plan, as well as answer questions about how to protect the business and the business owner from accidents and liability.

“A recent United Van Lines study reported that Vermont is second in the country for people moving into the state, only losing the top spot to South Dakota,” said Moore, explaining that much of the influx comes from retirees, rather than young people. “Because we have an aging population, we need to replace 10,000 workers per year.”

While the Central Vermont Chamber hosted the first gathering, which was attended by more than 50 people from as far away as Waterbury and Burlington, the group is expected to move forward from there, supplying the energy and commitment to succeed individually and as a group through networking and mutual interests. Meetings are planned to take place quarterly and alternate between business presentations and more light-hearted pursuits such as Frisbee and barbecues that will allow for networking on a less structured level.

Service to the community is an emphasis of the steering committee, as well as linking volunteers with organizations in need of volunteers.

The group is holding ongoing conversations, for instance, with the Vermont Center for Women and Enterprise in Burlington, which helps provide opportunities for women entrepreneurs and women in business. The hope is that this group will offer classes and presentations in the area in the future.

The Central Vermont Young Professionals Group can be contacted through its Facebook page, or by calling Stone or Browning at 272-0321.

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