The YP: Group surpasses own expectations, adds 300 members since March

TRAVERSE CITY – Last year during an interview with the Traverse City Business News, Tino Breithaupt, senior vice president of Economic Development for the Traverse City Area Chamber, challenged young professionals to get more involved in the community.

"They are the future of Traverse City, so I would like to see them take on a strong leadership role now."

Since then, almost 400 people have met that challenge by joining the newly-formed Young Professionals Group, also known as the YP. The group was organized by the TC Chamber after Munson Medical Center leaders expressed concern about the amount of young professionals leaving Traverse City for larger cities such as Detroit and Chicago.

"A top priority for the group is to encourage young people to stay in the area," says Beth Milligan, communication & program coordinator for the TC Chamber. "We team them up with local business owners to discuss the many opportunities TC has to offer."

The group targets people between the ages of 21-40 who are looking to network and enrich their careers in Traverse City. Organizers hope the title "Young Professionals" doesn't intimidate perspective members.

"We have members who are unemployed, straight out of college, and already in the workforce," says Milligan. "It's a place to meet people of similar ages who have the same professional goals."

The YP Group had its first event in March, in which 100 people attended. Six months later, it has 403 members. Organizers say between 40-80 new people join each month.

"There is this perception that there aren't a lot of young people in Traverse City," says Milligan. "The enthusiasm for this group disproves that stereotype."

Bryan Taggart, 26, owner and director of financial planning for The Larkin Group, says he joined the group to connect with other young professionals who have the same vision for the future of the Grand Traverse region.

"I want to make sure that we all help develop a wonderful place to live, work, and raise our families."

Chamber leaders say they want the Young Professionals Group to be a balance between professional and social events. On the first Tuesday of each month, members get together for a social "Undercover Night Out." And on the second Tuesday of each month the group holds a "Lunch and Learn" series which pairs members with area business owners to discuss career and development opportunities.

Along with professional and social events, there is also a strong focus on volunteering and giving back to the community.

Emily Arbut, 25, is an account coordinator for Tandem Design and is also the Volunteer Committee Chair for the Young Professionals Group. She has helped organize volunteer events at the Cherry Festival and the Film Festival.

"I joined the Young Professionals because I was looking for a way to become more involved in the community," says Arbut. "It seemed to me that there was a real lack in presence of people my age serving in the community and I wanted to be instrumental in changing that."

They have also started a business book club and are also thinking of starting a business discount card where members could buy a card to get discounts at area businesses. Right now there are no annual fees, but that might change in the future.

For more information, contact the TC Chamber at (231) 947-5075.