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Middlebury offers venue for networking by young professionals

MIDDLEBURY — American industrialist Henry Ford said that “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”
The Better Middlebury Partnership (BMP) is looking to put Ford’s entrepreneurial advice into practice through a new “young professionals” group that next Wednesday, May 8, will begin what organizers hope will be the first of many regular meetings for like-minded people to associate, compare notes and perhaps collaborate on new business ventures.
“It is a demographic that everyone is trying to recognize and promote in Vermont,” BMP President Ben Wilson said of “young professionals,” which in this case is being loosely defined as 40 and under and engaged in any vocation — white or blue collar.
“We want to create a vibrant network for these people.”
Wilson is hoping the new venture will replicate the success of a telecommuters’ group, which the Addison Independent profiled in its Oct. 17, 2012, edition. Area telecommuters — professionals who live in Addison County and who are able to do their jobs at home by phone, computer and teleconference — have been meeting monthly to share their stories and build friendships and sometimes professional relationships. The BMP has 58 people on its telecommuters e-mail list, with the regular gatherings drawing between 15 and 40 participants.
Wilson has hopes for even more success with the young professionals group.
“We expect this group will be larger,” he said.
He acknowledged Middlebury has sought to establish a young professionals group in the recent past, but it failed to hit its stride. Organizers are more optimistic this time around, noting this foray will be casual, with the emphasis — at least at the outset — on people getting to know each other and becoming more familiar with the county in which they are working. Speakers and presentations could be added later if there is demand.
Wilson stressed the young professionals group will cater to all workers, reflecting Vermont’s diverse business landscape. That means farmers, bank executives, teachers and sugarmakers are likely to be among those rubbing shoulders at upcoming gatherings, the first of which is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at 51 Main in downtown Middlebury.
Among those attendees will be Michael Corbett, a 30-year-old credit analyst with the National Bank of Middlebury. Corbett and his wife, Brandi, a teacher at Mary Hogan Elementary School, moved to Middlebury from Colorado in 2009. Corbett was involved with the previous incarnation of the Middlebury young professionals group and has supported similar associations within the banking industry.
A young professionals group, Corbett explained, can be a much-desired resource for people who might have just moved from a large, urban setting to a more rural community. He knows of transplants who have come to the area and left, in part because they were not able to assimilate readily into the social fabric of the town.
“For a single professional in particular, it can be difficult to jump right in and become part of the community,” he said.
And more young professionals have been landing in Middlebury in recent months, some of them affiliated with Middlebury Interactive Languages, a new company that creates and distributes on-line learning courses. If the young professionals group catches on, it could become part of the magnet that attracts more entrepreneurs to the county, according to organizers and supporters.
“As we continue to develop Middlebury’s economy, the energy, vision and diversity afforded by a strong cluster of young professionals will undoubtedly pay dividends downstream,” said Jamie Gaucher, Middlebury’s business development director.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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