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Young Professionals get encouraging nod from Provo mayor

January 19, 2019 GMT

More than 40 young professionals gathered at the Google sales office Thursday on Provo’s Center Street for the first Young Professionals Night sponsored by Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi and the administration’s newly organized young professionals committee.

Amber Savage, executive director of the Red Cross and a young professional, conducted the event, which included speeches by Kaufusi and guest speaker Devin Baer, national head of sales for Google.

Speaking to the group, Savage said, “We are here sometimes on a transient path as students, but some of us have roots here.”

She said many single professionals have a desire to live in Provo and to put roots down. That is often complicated, particularly when trying to become an accepted and active part of the community.

“We are not trying to force some kumbayah moment,” Savage said. “We want everyone involved.”

Baer talked about his journey as a young professional. At age 34, he has risen through the Google ranks quickly to a national level. He said there are three things that will give young professionals a good foundation in the community: commitment, credibility and connection.

He said the first thing is to have the commitment of time and passion. He talked about problem-solving and said he thrives on helping others.

Baer shared personal stories reflecting his feelings on workplace issues such as dress codes.

“I hate dress codes,” Baer said. “I can’t trust people who have to dress (up).”

He referred to a Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Summit he was asked to chair. The event is held at the Sundance Mountain Resort, and Baer was dressed down in jeans and a hoodie.

His committee associate, Cameron Martin, vice president of university relations at Utah Valley University, was dressed in a white shirt and tie.

Baer said he was a bit dismayed. Martin was so dressed up. Martin told Baer to watch. Martin stepped up to the mic, took out some scissors and cut his tie in half.

He then invited executives to take their ties off. Baer quipped that the ties came off quickly.

The whole meeting had a different dynamic and was just as productive as if the ties were on, according to Baer.

Baer encouraged the young professionals to think big and then deliver, and that will bring credibility.

Closing his remarks, he said connections need to have authenticity.

“The best way to do that is to sit side-by-side with people in solving problems,” Baer said.

Problems surrounding young professionals in Provo have been an ongoing discussion with the municipal council as well as the administration.

Over the past five years, issues with housing and parking have caused a disconnect for some single, young professionals and their more established, family-oriented neighbors; particularly those living in southeast Provo.

The hope is by organizing and encouraging young professionals to live in Provo, the community can build a stronger dynamic without disenfranchising a whole generation.

Kaufusi said there is an intangible energy and vibrancy to Provo that is near and dear to the heart of its young, single professionals.

“Companies want to hire you. Tech startups are formed by you. You have time and energy and passion to devote to causes, charities and civic engagement,” Kaufusi said.

With those feelings being shared, Kaufusi introduced her new plan.

“Tonight serves as our formal announcement of this committee,” she said. “While it may do many things, its primary mission is to attract and retain young professionals, including particularly young, single professionals. It’s a mission I feel strongly about.”

The committee has already been hard at work on surveys to get the administration concrete data on important issues involving the young professional dynamic.

“I’m also pleased to announce tonight that I have asked all my department directors to report to me on ways they can better engage with your demographic,” Kaufusi said. “I told them how so many of you have indicated a desire to assist the city, whether by analyzing data or helping with the upcoming census count.”

Kaufusi said she intends to have more young professionals serve on boards and commissions.

“I’m convinced that you, young professionals, are critical to our bright future. I believe you can find meaningful opportunities here to you won’t find elsewhere. So please, even if the ride has occasionally been a little bumpy, stay,” she said.

Wyatt McGregor, a member of Kaufusi’s committee said, “This is a first step to acknowledge there are issues ,and it affects more than our demographic.”

Joining the Provo professionals was a group of young professionals that have organized in Vineyard and are working with Mayor Julie Fullmer to become more engaged in community affairs and development.

Janie Brigman, vice president of the Vineyard committee, said, “The reason we started was because of the problems with parking and no one knew what was going on.”

Brigman added that many of the young professionals want to make Vineyard their home. “We need to be able to understand what’s going on in the city and how it functions.”

The hope is that other young professionals in other cities throughout the county will organize in their city and become engaged in community activities and even leadership positions in local government.