The plight of the young professional and entrepreneur in the Hartford region is well documented.
Six years ago, I moved here from Pittsburgh with my fiancee. We were two years out of college. We arrived with no network, few assets and no understanding of how impossible it would be for us to set up a life for ourselves. We were excited to arrive in New England ... but it would be expensive and difficult.
Fast-forward to the present and our point of view is very different. This region has provided everything we could hope for and more. We have earned graduate degrees from local universities, purchased a home and put down roots in our community. Professionally we found the senior leadership of the Hartford region engaging and inviting. Our efforts to reach out to these "cold New Englanders" have been met with interest and a focus on what we can accomplish together.
Perhaps we are unique, but I think that is only because of our point of view - not our ability to find a modest measure of success as a young couple moving here. So, how does the Hartford region overcome its stigma as an area young professionals cannot wait to leave?
Engagement is the solution. As young professionals we must use the resources available in our community and learn from our business and philanthropic leaders. There are senior leaders in this community who are titans of industry, seasoned problem solvers, ingenious entrepreneurs, enterprising fundraisers and genuine benefactors of young professionals. They want to lift your career, develop your community roots and open doors to new opportunities.
If you are between 20 and 35 and (this is not an exhaustive list) have not been to a Hartford Young Professionals and Entrepreneurs event, finished a Quest program, know about the World Affairs Council, Jaycees, Amistad or the Urban League and complain that there is no opportunity or anything to do in Hartford, you need to wake up. Reach out - serve on a nonprofit board, join an organization, support the arts, apply your talents to more than a 9-to-5. The next time you're in the elevator with your boss's, boss's boss, tell him what you are engaged in and around Hartford and see where it takes you.
This is a two-sided coin ... Successful entrepreneurs, corporations, community organizations and political leaders must realize that this is an issue that will affect their ability to accomplish their goals. The current groundswell of attention to young professionals in this region must continue to build. Support the green space ideas of Hartford 2010 and build the infrastructure that leads to success in this endeavor. Engage the MetroHartford Alliance and other groups in the region that are taking tangible steps to solve the problem. There is no better way to grow community leaders than working on such projects and rolling up your sleeves alongside the young talent we must retain. Nonprofit and corporate boards must reach out and supplement their ranks with fresh faces.
We must realize that if our major corporate citizens cannot find the young talent they need to sustain their growth here, they will go elsewhere. It is important to build the young professional and entrepreneurial culture in the Hartford.
This begins with letting the rest of the country - actually the world - know about the wonderful assets we have here. Don't delude yourself into thinking that our talent pool isn't being recruited to Madrid, Dublin, Singapore, Shanghai and Delhi. As a region, we boast a talented and diverse workforce, tremendous schools, increasingly vibrant downtown, beautiful seasons, quick access to other incredible cities, a deep philanthropic history, direct flights to Amsterdam and a wave of renaissance that we who already live here can't afford to surrender.
Scott Davis, 29, of Canton is an insurance account executive at Hilb Rogal & Hobbs in Hartford. He is chairman of Hartford Young Professionals and Entrepreneurs.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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