Chamber sparks young professionals group


The Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce is investing in the future with young professionals in the region. Announced on May 24, the Bennington Young Professionals group will join the chamber and be renamed as the Shires Young Professionals. 

"This is our future," said Matt Harrington, executive director of the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce. "I love the idea that we are doubling down on our future. This is an investment to us, not a cost."

Talk about the partnership began six months ago.

The group will operate under the chamber's leadership to concentrate responsibilities, bring young professionals to the regions and provide more consistency and resources for both organizations. This includes a mentorship program to promote leadership as a strategic goal as part of the group's vision and mission, for example.

"By merging with the chamber, the Young Professionals group has broadened its reach and increased its capacity," said Michelle Marrocco, a member of the Shires Young Professionals leadership advisory board. "Bennington County has so many wonderful volunteer-led initiatives. Adding a few more resources to the YP group relieves a bit of the burden on volunteers and better positions the steering committee (who are all volunteers) to achieve its vision for the organization."

Working closely with the young professionals in the area is a part of the chamber's strategic goals.

"One of the strategic goals of the Chamber's 2020 Vision is to enhance the pathway to leadership and increase volunteerism by 2020," Harrington said. "Under this internal goal is a whole selection on young professional growth initiatives. One of those was to partner with the former Bennington Young Professionals. We also know that the young professional absence and exit in our state and in our region is almost at a crisis level."

Future plans include hosting quarterly networking events and programs, recruiting existing young professionals in southern Vermont and bordering communities, and establishing common ground with the chamber to lay out future needs and ideas as the partnership develops.

Shires Young Professionals aim to "engage and empower young professionals in the community helping them to emerge in their professions," according to a release from the chamber.

Harrington will serve as the interim chair for the Shires Young Professionals advisory board while the mentorship and volunteer program is being built. The board meets once every month to discuss planning and implementation.

"The steering committee has plans to create mentorship opportunities for YPs, volunteer outings, and a diverse range of events and programs," Marrocco said. "There's never been a lack of good ideas, but now the organization will have some resources to make them happen. [The chamber] has a wide network of businesses, leaders, and professionals across the county; its already made a commitment in its own work plans to support the development and recruitment of young professionals to the region, and its lending SYP some staff time to help coordinate SYP projects. It's a partnership that benefits both the chamber and the Shires Young Professionals."

Harrington said he was brought together with professionals alike through the original group within its 10 years of existence. 

"At some point in the maturity of any committee or group, there finally needs to be some acceleration in terms of funds, support mechanisms and building a true strategic vision," he said. "This group for the past 10 years has been a great group that brought many young people together including myself! With the help of the Chamber, we can achieve other goals like mentorship, job growth, lifestyle education, volunteerism and civic leadership."

A new website and logo was created for the group that is a play on of the chamber's rebranding that was released last year. 

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