Chamber starts Young Professionals Group

TRAVERSE CITY – Approximately 157 students are expected to graduate this month from Northwestern Michigan College. While many of these students will move on to jobs in big cities like Detroit, Chicago, or Boston, the Traverse City Area Chamber is striving to see that a larger portion of them they stay and work here in Traverse City.

"Over the past several years, we've seen more and more young people accept jobs in Traverse City. Now we need to work on keeping those employees here for the long run," says Tino Breithaupt, the Chamber's senior vice president of economic development.

He hopes a newly-formed Young Professionals Group will do just that. This past summer, he and his colleagues attended a retreat that focused on creating an intergenerational community.

"We left the retreat feeling we needed to do something in Traverse City to combine generations X & Y," says Breithaupt. "We need to create a vibrant region for young professionals to stay in Traverse City."

The first step in starting the Young Professionals Group was to see just how many people under the age of 35 are working in Traverse City. The area's largest employer, Munson Medical Center, has 4,220 employees. Among them, almost 21 percent are 20-34 years old. At accounting firm Plante & Moran, 56 percent are 20-34 years old, and at Hagerty Insurance, 44 percent of the employees are in that age group.

Once the chamber had the numbers, the next step was to get the feedback. Would people join such an organization? What would they want to get out of it?

The goal, says Breithaupt, is to combine social and professional networking with mentoring opportunities. While the Chamber is organizing the group, its members will decide what direction it takes.

"I am very excited about the opportunity of meeting other professionals my age," says Dan Lynch, an accountant at Plante & Moran. The 23-year-old moved to Traverse City six months ago from Alpena. "TC is a great place to live, but the problem is getting the message out and retaining young people to stay here."

Allison Beers, 28, director of public relations and account manager for Idea Stream, moved to Traverse City two and a half years ago from Philadelphia. There she was part of a Young Professionals Group with more than 500 members.

"I loved it. It helped my business grow and I made life-long connections."

Beers says she has been toying with the idea of starting a Young Professionals Group and is glad that the Chamber is taking action.

"We are the future of Traverse City," she says. "We will be here the longest and need to work together as a group."

Breithaupt agrees.

"Yes, they are the future of Traverse City, so I would like to see them take on a stronger leadership role now, I hope this new group will inspire them to do so."

If you would like to join or obtain more information, call Laura Oblinger, senior VP of the Chamber, at 995-7103 or email