Upper Mississippi Under Forty (UMUF), a group of young professionals in the area, has responded to requests for feedback from young professionals in conjunction with the University of Northern Iowa’s Regional Entrepreneurship Project (REP). Clayton County was selected as the first single county to undergo the REP process, which will evaluate existing businesses, run a SWOT analysis and gain feedback from existing and potentially retiring business owners while simultaneously evaluating entrepreneurs that may be interested in starting their own businesses or taking the reigns in an existing business.
Charter UMUF member Jenna Pollock, who works as the director of the Clayton County Conservation Board, explained her inspiration for launching the UMUF group. “Since moving back home, I’ve grasped a 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/extra curricular activities that will ultimately benefit our region. I think the disconnect comes from moving into the community and not connecting with opportunities.”
Pollock collected results from a poll of various UMUF members, first addressing concerns over lack of young professional (YP) participation in boards, commissions, fundraising activities, and events. “YPs want to be more informed,” she said. “The general consensus is that marketing strategies aren’t working. So how can we educate young professionals on how to find this information, or how can we directly funnel this information to the young professionals that aren’t already attending lot of meetings locally for work? Those who are partnered with multiple organizations through their work tend to be more in the know about upcoming events.”
Young professionals today are task driven. “Give them an assignment and a deadline and they’ll get it done,” Pollock explained. “They attend board meetings a couple of times because they want to be involved in their communities, but they don’t see any action or the initiative of the group is unclear, so they leave.” She also noted that young professionals polled don’t want to hear about what was tried before they were born and was unsuccessful – they feel it’s a different time, and different people are responding to tasks.
Pollock also found that young professionals don’t want to attend meetings that exceed one hour. “YPs go to social events to socialize; they go to meetings to get work done or assigned. Social chatter and gossip at meetings turns YPs off when it stands in the way of getting tasks accomplished,” she stated.
The poll came back with findings that young professionals are impatient with redundancy. They like information to be centralized and feel that communication between agencies and partnerships could be improved.
To address some of these issues, UMUF will host a lecture series in 2018. “A series of learning sessions, formatted like a Ted Talk presentation, will be happening monthly to help inform YPs of how community structure works. Examples may include speakers from city councils, chambers, Main Street programs, etc. Basically we want to provide information on the workings of a community, but also showcase some of our local entrepreneurs,” Pollock explained.
The UMUF’s next social outing will be a trivia night on Friday, Dec. 15, at Schera’s in Elkader. To get involved with the group, email Pollock at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their Facebook page.
Photo courtesy of Jenna Pollock.