Young professionals ‘critical’ to community

Chamber event puts focus on young talent

Young professionals were in the spotlight at the Blair County Chamber of Commerce Breakfast Club at The Casino at Lakemont Park on Thursday.

Young Professionals of Blair County defines a young professional as people 18 to 40 years old.

“Young professionals are such a critical part of our community. They are the fuel for the economic engine for future generations,” said Steve McKnight, president and CEO of Altoona-Blair County Development Corp.

Words can’t describe the value of young professionals here in Blair County, said Derek Martin, general manager of the Altoona Curve, which employs 22 young professionals in its staff of 25.

“We are fortunate to have the stellar talent of young professionals at the Altoona Curve. I continue to struggle with how to keep people. Some get opportunities to go to major league teams. I can’t compete with that,” Martin said. “I try to give leadership to the people at the Altoona Curve. We try not to micromanage them. We want to work smarter not harder. They help us to work smarter. They can help us enhance and promote what we do at the Curve”.

McKnight said young professionals are important to economic development.

“The focus point of economic development is moving from attracting big manufacturing companies. We are in the talent attraction business,” McKnight said. “Sixty-six percent of millennials plan to choose where they live first, then find a job there. This is a big shift from the thinking of the past.”

It is important to make the area attractive for young professionals by improving and modernizing the housing stock, McKnight said.

He cited some development projects that will improve the area.

“Jeff Long’s project (Graystone Grande Palazzo) is an example. That is the kind of project that will transform our neighborhoods. Also, the Elizabeth Apartments project; this will attract young professionals. Downtown Altoona has many pioneering enterprises,” McKnight said.

McKnight also said it is important to re-invent spaces and use them in different ways.

Martin said young professionals need to have greater involvement in the community — such as with Rotary Clubs and other organizations comprised of older people.

“It is time for our age group to step up. Groups will fizzle out if we don’t,” Martin said. “Volunteering is not easy for young professionals but we need to step up with the groups we get involved in.”

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.