TORRINGTON – It’s all about a seat at the table.
Nationwide, on social and traditional media, millennials and xennials are generally panned as being lazy and uninvolved. Older generations get a kick out of sharing articles about whatever industry the younger folks are killing that week, or sharing memes about avocado toast.
But here in Goshen County, a handful of young professionals led by Banner Community Hospital CEO Zach Miller and farmer and business consultant Colby Ochsner are seeking to change those perceptions and be more involved in the community.
The group had its first meeting last week, and while a name hasn’t been finalized, between 30 and 35 people showed up for the first meeting of a local young professionals network Thursday night at the Open Barrel Brewing Company. The goal, according to Miller, is to bring like-minded people together.
“I think there’s a need for those younger professionals to get more involved in those community and civic organizations so the voice of the younger parents and the household is heard,” Miller said. “We can shape a lot of things if we’re at the table.”
Both Miller and Ochsner believe it’s time for their peers to take a seat at the table.
Miller, in addition to his day job, serves on the Goshen County School Board. Ochsner is on the Eastern Wyoming College Board of Trustees. Both serve on the Goshen County Economic Development Board of Directors. Miller was named to the Wyoming Business Report 40 under 40 list in 2019, and Ochsner was nominated.
According to Ochsner, it was that connection they shared with GCEDC that led to the formation of the young professionals group.
“Zach called me a few months back, and he brought up the idea that in a lot of communities there are professional networks and opportunities for leadership development,” Ochsner said. “That was something our community was lacking. It was something Zach felt the need for and he asked if it was something I’d be interested in.”
The duo put together a list of names, made some calls, and from that, the first event was planned.
“They all came to a planning committee meeting and it kind of launched out of there,” Ochsner said. “It’s been an organic thing so far. We want to be inclusive and organic, and if people want to get involved on the steering committee or in growing the idea and what the organization becomes, the more, the merrier.
“We’re developing a mission statement to summarize what the idea is. It’s an organization for people that are seeking leadership development, who want to make connections, for collaboration. It’s a group to make the meeting an intentional thing.”
Those connections, Miller said, are the main reason for the group.
“We’re kind of in the defining stage of what it all is,” he said. “I think our main goals right now are to first connect individuals together. Healthcare is insulated. Educators are insulated. Ranchers are insulated. It’s about getting people together so they can learn from one another.”
The group is planning to meet on the second Tuesday of every month. The first meeting was a social event, and the next will be what Miller described as a development meeting, which will be held at the Loft at 21st and Main on Feb. 13 at noon. The plan, as of now, is to alternate between social meetings and development meetings.
“The idea is to do something of a social-type event every other month and then on the off months to do a development event, so you have social and some sort of development,” he said. “It could even just be a business presenting to the group, saying ‘this is what I am and these are the challenges I face.’”
While it was advertised through social media as a young professionals event, Ochsner said the focus is more on the connections, not necessarily the age of the participants.
“We invite everyone,” he said. “We had people last night that ranged from mid-20s to 65 or over. We might be geared toward up and coming professionals, but its open to anyone. We’re not going to set a limit on anything, but the majority of the people were from 20-40.”
Both Miller and Ochsner are already fairly plugged in to the community. For others, this group could be a way to get involved.
“It’s important to be engaged in your community,” Ochsner said. “I heard something on NPR about successful rural communities, and it said that in order to be successful, it takes community engagement.
“I think each person needs to seek out what they need to be involved in and go be a part of it. There are a lot of opportunities in the community to do that, and I’ve been fortunate to be engaged in that.”