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May 2003 / elsewhere :: email this story to a friend

We Choose Milwaukee
By Julie Granger

"We Choose Milwaukee" is the mantra of nearly 2,000 young and talented individuals known as Young Professionals of Milwaukee (YPM). The group, just 19 months old, touts itself as the fastest-growing young professional group in the country. "We are jazzed about this city, its momentum and our potential to impact it," says Shelley Jurewicz, executive director of the group.

YPM, a service of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, is charged with engaging the breadth of region's talent pool in shaping and showcasing a Greater Milwaukee more attractive to diverse young talent. In their 20s and 30s, its members represent nearly 300 businesses and non-profit organizations, from GE Medical Systems and Harley-Davidson to OnMilwaukee.com and the Urban Ecology Center, and all types of professions from engineers and attorneys to entrepreneurs and artists.

Why choose Milwaukee? It's a "Metro with Moxie," according to economic development magazine, Plants, Sites & Parks; "a city for people who love cities," per Money Magazine; and a top ten contender in the Hot Jobs — Cool Communities Report. YPMers see Milwaukee as having big-city amenities with small-town ease.

That translates to:

In addition to holding 20+ events per year — each getting 200 to 500 of its members up-close-and-personal with Milwaukee's coolest people and places, latest developments and toughest challenges — the group is sitting down with community power players to share the influence. "We get calls everyday from business and community leaders asking us to select young professionals to serve on boards, committees, and task forces," says Jurewicz. "I don't believe any other city is so aggressively and enthusiastically offering its emerging leaders a place at the table."

The group's vision to be the reason young talent chooses to call Milwaukee home flowed from an event held last year called "Milwaukee Moxie." After being put in a room with markers, tape, flip charts and an abundance of Milwaukee publications, YPM members were asked to design an ad marketing Milwaukee to young talent across the country. "What we realized was Milwaukee was already in the ballgame; the differentiator was YPM," says Jeff Sherman, YPM president and co-founder of OnMilwaukee.com. "This is truly a city where young talent can shape its future."

YPM recently embarked on a strategy to get Milwaukeeans "living" diversity at home, work and play — a fresh perspective to an age-old challenge. "We started asking ourselves, 'Who do you have over for dinner on a Saturday night?'" says Carl Hebron, YPM vice president and project manager for Northwestern Mutual. The response was the Café Mosaic Series, six hip events humming with a vibe that only comes from 300 to 400 diverse young people in conversation about something of importance to everyone in the room. The format was inspired by The World Café. The third in the series is April 30. More than 450 people, 65 of whom are business and community leaders, are coming out to hang out and talk about our tendency to hire and promote people who are like us and its effect on women and minorities reaching management levels.

In addition, YPM produced a "man-on-the-street" video about diversity in Milwaukee titled "Mosaic Milwaukee." "It's very cool to see area businesses and organizations snapping up copies, and we are working with the public schools to get copies in the classrooms," says Hebron.

With attraction and retention of talent top-of-mind, YPM has an action team called College Connection, whose role is to work with area employers, colleges and universities to help students make the Milwaukee choice. Student interns were surveyed last summer, and revealed that access to a young professionals' network is a "deal-maker" when making the decision to accept that first job. "We've got what they want and are doing everything to make sure students know it," says Jackie Valent, YPM officer and human resource manager for Direct Supply.

It's not all work and no play for the group. Every month they host YPM Around Town, purely social showcases of Milwaukee's hottest clubs, restaurants and neighborhoods. "It's all about networking, getting to know Milwaukee's night scene and the rich ethnic neighborhoods around the city," says Chris Chlupp of YPM's Creative Council and financial advisor for Robert W. Baird.

What's next for the group? "With a membership bursting at the seams in size and energy, our strategic efforts are focusing on creating the means for young talent to self-organize around what's most important to them," says Jurewicz. Check out Milwaukee at www.metromilwaukee.org and YPM at ypm.mmac.org.

Julie Granger is Communications Director for the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, and has a bachelor's degree in communication from John Carroll University.

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