Getting Young Hartford Professionals To Pay Their Dues
HYPE turning freewheeling success into more formalized affair
By LAURA SCHREIER, Hartford Business Journal Staff Writer
August 20, 2007
Young professionals in Hartford – and the employers who badly want to keep them here — should pay attention to Julie Daly’s new job.
Daly is the first-ever program director and only full-time staff person for HYPE, which stands for Hartford Young Professionals and Entrepreneurs. But the creation of her job signals that the MetroHartford Alliance is shifting HYPE into a full membership initiative.
That means a more formal structure — including paid dues — is on the way.
Since its founding a year and a half ago, HYPE has operated more as a loose series of activities than a structured organization, with free events intended to boost networking and other involvement among young professionals in the area.
HYPE’s overarching goal is to help greater Hartford’s economic vitality. It’s supposed to make young up-and-comers feel connected to the community. The idea is that such young employees will be less likely to pull up stakes and take their brains, dollars, and vital “cool factor” along with them to other cities with better reputations.
HYPE began as more of an experiment, said Oz Griebel, president of the chamber. Instead of asking for dues immediately, the chamber decided to set it up more loosely and see how it played out in Hartford.
With consistently good turnout at events and a listed membership of 1,600, he said, the MetroHartford Alliance deemed the experiment a success. Griebel isn’t concerned that dues would hurt membership — the new structure, pricier though it will be, might give HYPE a boost.
“When you give something away, people don’t necessarily value it,” he said. Now, it’s time to take the group to the next level.
Instead of pulling together HYPE funds from a hodgepodge of sources, the chamber will set aside $75,000 to $100,000 in 2008 for Daly’s position and various events, Griebel said. It will collect dues from individual members or companies that will pay to have their employees join; the MetroHartford Alliance’s chamber members plan to announce further details after Labor Day.
Formerly, events were often headed up by an ad hoc assemblage of chamber employees who couldn’t dedicate their full attention to HYPE plans. That’s where Daly will step in.
A 24-year-old University of Connecticut graduate, Daly already has experience as a Hartford-area promoter. She comes to the chamber from nonprofit community leadership organization Leadership Greater Hartford, where she coordinated its young professionals program.
That involved her with OnTrack Hartford, a five-week course that connects young employees and interns with volunteer events, entertainment options and leadership seminars. And like HYPE, it’s geared toward retaining a younger workforce in the Hartford area.
Daly also acted as a guide for LGH’s Hartford Encounters, which are single tours that companies or organizations can request for groups of employees. The work led her all over the city, she said, and gave her an idea of the kind of obstacles the Hartford area faces in keeping young people’s interest.
“I hated hearing the question, ‘What is there to do in Hartford?’” she said, especially since the question is often asked with the expectation that “nothing much, really” will be the response.
“It was nice to be able to surprise them,” Daly said: Many younger people weren’t aware of the contemporary arts organization Real Art Ways, for example, or the volunteer activities at the Village for Families and Children on Albany Avenue. The idea, she said, is connecting people with options already available to them.