Communities thrive on a mix of younger, older generations

The Day’s insightful series highlighting millennials who have chosen to settle in eastern Connecticut confirms what the Chamber of Commerce has long championed: our region is a wonderful place for people of all ages to work and raise a family.

As someone who emigrated here from Ireland at age 19 to find a better life for myself, I’ve come to appreciate the advantages of a community that is large enough to support rewarding careers and ample cultural opportunities, yet small enough to enjoy an intimate and supportive community and all it has to offer.

Back then men and women roughly my age and up to a decade or two older weren’t called “millennials” – we were simply “young adults,” poised to take on new challenges and responsibilities.

But not long ago, for various demographic and economic reasons, Connecticut began losing its younger generation. As The Day reported from U.S. Census statistics, from 2010 to 2016 the population of state residents born between 1981 and 1997 dropped by 0.6 percent; in 2014 alone more than 17,000, or 7 percent, of young adults in the 20-24 age group moved out of Connecticut.

 The Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut recognized and quickly responded to this troubling trend seven years ago, forming a “Young Professionals organization of Eastern Connecticut Division” that promotes social networking, professional development and civic engagement. Through this network, young professionals build lasting friendships, establish working relationships, share ideas and invest in the region’s future.

Young Professionals of Eastern Connecticut has grown into the largest organization of its kind in the area, serving young adults from East Lyme, Waterford, New London, Groton, Norwich, Mystic and many surrounding communities. The group’s most recent monthly gathering attracted some 95 members and guests for an evening of socializing and career networking.

Their next monthly “YPsocial,” as they are called, will be held March 15 at CURE Innovation Commons, a biotech and co-working space in Groton. On March 19, they will host the next installment of their CEO discussion series, “Tips from the Top,” featuring Kevin Brown, chairman of the Mohegan Tribe. More details are available on the Chamber’s Young Professionals website: www.YPECT.com.

Incidentally, though the term “young professional” usually suggests people between the ages of 21 and 40, our membership is open to anyone who feels “young at heart,” but especially those looking to hire or mentor these talented young adults. And though many who join work in professional settings, we welcome artists, service workers, the self-employed, operators of home-based businesses, entrepreneurs, students and everything in between.

These days, when municipal and business leaders discuss the importance of diversity, they usually refer to ethnic origin, race and gender, but there’s another important component of a strong, diverse community: age. We all benefit from a mix of generations. The wisdom and experience of the middle-aged and seniors blending with the enthusiasm and fresh insights of the young adds immeasurably to the quality of our region. When a community and workforce tilt too far in one direction or another, progress and vitality suffer.

There are measures the older generation can and must take to attract and retain millennials. As a community we must provide good jobs, affordable housing, and a range of entertainment and recreational opportunities, all contributing toward pride in a community and confidence in a bright future.

Based on the young adults profiled in The Day’s series, as well as those who have joined the Chamber’s Young Professionals network, I believe we are heading in the right direction.

Tony Sheridan of Waterford is president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut.

 

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