Friday, May 13, 2011

West Virginia and the Need for Young Professionals: Stop Talking and Start Marketing

For the last two years all I’ve heard is “We need more young professionals in West Virginia.” And that’s pretty much all I heard today at Generation West Virginia’s Young Leaders Conference. Well West Virginia, it’s time to shut up and roll up ‘yer sleeves on this one.

It seems we spend so much time focusing on the need for young professionals in wild, wonderful West Virginia that we can’t see the forest for the Spruce, Maple, and Oak trees.

What do young people look for in a potential new homeland? Progress. Movement. Energy. And more progress.

We’ve laid the foundations for current young professionals in our beloved Mountain Mamma with the creation of Generation West Virginia, Generation Charleston, Generation Putnam, Generation GAP, Generation Greenbrier Valley, Huntington Young Professionals, Generation Morgantown, North Central Young Leaders, OVConnect, Pendleton County YPC, Young Professionals of the Eastern Panhandle, Young Emerging Leaders of the Mid-Ohio Valley, Vision Shared, and several other organizations.

Furthermore, we’re making progress by drafting legislation to improve our state’s future that’s being introduced and passed in the West Virginia State Senate and House of Delegates. This legislation is being sponsored and moved along by members of the organizations above who serve in the House, such as Delegates Amanda Pasdon and Doug Skaff. This progress wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of several amazing young professionals, and the advice of a few “older” ones.

This is our biggest marketing asset. Rather than talking about the need for young professionals, it’s time we showcase our progress and ask the rest of the nation’s young people to join our movement. Why did so many youngsters from sea to shining sea hop on Obama’s 2008 campaign bandwagon? Because they saw progress being made and they had a call to action. (While I know this isn’t a proper comparison, the marketing tactic is the same.) They were inspired.

Once someone comes to West Virginia, it’s hard for them not to fall in love with all our state has to offer. West Virginia is inspiring, full of possibilities and huge feats that need to be accomplished.

I see pretty much the same people and hear the same names over and over again at leadership conferences in West Virginia. These are the founders of West Virginia’s future, now it’s time for us to ignite this passion in others by marketing our progress and giving the nation’s young people a call to action: come to West Virginia and join our movement to build something better than anyone’s dreamed.

You’re probably thinking, “Okay, we need jobs.” “Yikes Cartney, too many regulations and there isn’t a Neiman Marcus here…. HELLO!” Or maybe you’re saying to yourself, “This girl is way too tired from the special election and needs a vacation.”

Wake up West Virginia, we need to move to the second phase of recruiting young people to our state.

While I’m all for West Virginia students going to in-state colleges and universities, we have to make sure some of our best and brightest leave, because they need to bring back the ideas and energy to West Virginia to create something so unfathomable, it will put our state on the map for even greater things.

Let’s tell the nation about what great things we’re accomplishing here in West Virginia. Let’s focus on spreading our passion to our friends who live out of state and get them here. It might start off small, but when a raindrop falls on Cheat Lake… it produces a ripple.