By Rob Mitchell
Downtown Rutland will get an influx of youth on Saturday, as the third annual Young Professionals Summit of Vermont comes to the Paramount Theatre.
Millenials from around the state will converge for sessions that will start with personal career development, expand to specific skill-building, then end the day with Vermont-industry-specific topics like recreation and beer.
Tyler Richardson volunteered at the first summit in 2015, shortly after moving to Rutland from Nebraska. His wife Amanda had taken a job at the Castleton Polling Institute, and he was looking for ways to connect. At that summit, he met many young Rutlanders and started building the ties that keep the couple in Rutland, he said.
“What kept us here is definitely the connections we made through Rutland Young Professionals, and the connections I made at that first summit,” he said. Richardson is now an RYP board member, works as the assistant director of REDC, and has seen the summit grow from the inside. He said that every year the event raises the profile of Rutland statewide — even more so this year, when organizers Laura Pierce and Amanda O’Brien held the kickoff press conference in Shelburne at Fiddlehead Brewing Company.
“We need ideas … not just from policy makers in Montpelier,” said Vermont Gov. Phil Scott at the event last month. “They come from people like yourselves who are on the ground every day. … Rebuilding our work-age population is critical to us as a state.”
Saturday will begin with opening remarks from the Michael Schirling, the secretary of commerce and community development. He’ll be followed by breakout sessions in locations around the downtown — at the GMP Energy Innovation Center, the Rutland Economic Development Corporation offices, upstairs at the Palms restaurant, and in the CCV building on West Street.
The sessions covering “Creating Your Best Days,” “Your Role in the Legislative Process,” “Building Your Professional Career In Vermont — Is it Possible?,” “Comeback Communities,” and “Taking the Work Out of Networking” will precede the keynote address by Mary Powell, the CEO of Green Mountain Power.
In the afternoon, breakout topics include “21st Century Skills,” “Business Buying Basics,” the and “Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem.”
Margo Jones, a certified financial planner for UBS in downtown Rutland, will lead the breakout session “The Health of Your Wealth,” on the basics of personal finances, geared toward the summit attendees.
“Talking about money is up there with sex and religion,” Jones said. “‘Don’t talk about it at the dinner table.’… It shouldn’t be as taboo as it is.”
She attended the summit last year and was impressed by both the attendance and by the breakout sessions. Like many young professionals in the Rutland area, she came to Rutland due to a personal connection and a job — she joined her aunt at the Rutland UBS. The summit, and the professionals group, she said, plays an important role in raising the visibility and the impact of the younger generation of Rutland’s leaders.
These are the people the region needs to attract and retain — a topic near and dear to the hearts of Mary Cohen and Lyle Jepsen. They are the executive directors of the Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce and the Rutland Economic Development Corporation, respectively, and will also lead the “Regional Marketing Campaign” breakout session.
After much research, the Chamber and REDC have built a long-term plan to market the region not just to tourists, but also to young professionals who are looking for a place to build a business and a family. It’s crucial for Rutland to turn the demographic tide, where many young Vermonters leave for opportunity elsewhere, and the population is aging, Jepsen said.
“This is exactly the crowd we are trying to attract,” said Cohen of the summit attendees.
They are also working with organizers to take stock of what the visitors think of Rutland, and get feedback on local revitalization efforts. Summit participants will get a short survey to that end.
“The organizers find there’s real interest around the state about what’s happening here,” in Rutland, Cohen said.
The first Young Professionals Summit was in September of 2015, a partnership of the Rutland Young Professionals and the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies. That first year drew about 125 professionals from all over the state. Last year attendance went up to 150.
Registration and information is on the summit website at www.ypsummitvt.com. The cost is $20, and the day opens with registration at 8:30 a.m. at the Paramount Theatre on Center Street in Downtown Rutland.
Rob Mitchell is on the Board of Directors of the Rutland Economic Development Corporation.