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40 Under 40: Connecting Young Professionals in Northeast Iowa
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40 Under 40: Connecting Young Professionals in Northeast Iowa

Six young professionals in Northeast Iowa have founded a new group they’re calling Upper Mississippi Under Forty (UMUF). Charter member Jenna Pollock, who works as the director of the Clayton County Conservation Board, explained her inspiration for launching UMUF. “Since moving back home, I’ve grasped the disconnect between people my age and the needs of the community,” said Pollock, who returned to northeast Iowa to get back to her family farm. “There are young motivated people in our region but they have a hard time getting connected with volunteer/extracurricular activities that will ultimately benefit our region. I think the disconnect comes from moving into the community and not connecting with opportunities.”

The UMUF will follow the precedent set forth by Young Professionals of Iowa, whose mission is to serve as a mechanism to empower emerging leaders to cultivate an environment that attracts and retains young professionals in the state of Iowa. The organization’s board members are from all across the state, and the group aims to form a statewide network of young professional organizations, educate young professionals about the importance of involvement in community growth, and engage them with exciting opportunities statewide. 

The Upper Mississippi Under Forty group began meeting in early 2016 with members from Fayette, Clayton, and Delaware counties. The group’s primary focus is to connect young people that live, work and play in Upper Northeast Iowa.  “I hope we can first and foremost help establish a social network for new and returning young people in the community, bring some awareness to what YPs need to be able to live in a rural region and make some connections with what communities need from young professionals,” said Pollock.

Other charter members of the group include Mallory Marlatt, another northeast Iowa native who works as project coordinator for Northeast Iowa RC&D, naturalist Kenny Slocum, fisheries technician Megan Thul, warehouse manager Tony Giorgenti, and park ranger Erin Slocum. "As a transplant to Clayton County I've fallen in love with the region’s woods, waterways, prairies, and the people who call this wonderful place home,” said Slocum. “The Upper Mississippi Under 40 group is a great way to connect with other young folks in the area and to help have a positive impact on our community's future.”

The group plans to host engaging social events that inform participants of their critical role in the growth of their communities. The first will be a trivia night on April 14 at 7 p.m. at the Irish Shanti in Gunder, which will offer various food and drink specials for the event. It’s free to attend. “At the end of the day the Upper Mississippi Under Forty group wants to help connect young people while having fun, and carrying the potential to affect positive change on their communities in Northeast Iowa,” said Pollock. 

The group will also be reaching out to regional businesses to connect with their young workforce. “There are several hundred job openings in the region, but it’s hard to find housing let alone the right balance of a well-rounded lifestyle when you’re new to an area,” Pollock added.

For more information about UMUF, contact uppermiss40@gmail.com or on Facebook @uppermiss40. 

Photo courtesy of Thomas Henrikson, Flickr Creative Commons.

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