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State of Our City event will challenge young professionals to take actionable results

Next month’s Greater Omaha Chamber Young Professionals’ State of Our City event will bring an open dialogue on building a strong city to Omaha’s impassioned, young professionals.

State of Our City is extending conversations that began at this year’s YP Summit and opening a new discussion on what Omaha should look like, focus on and do next in the areas of transportation, diversity and talent, arts and culture, entrepreneurship/STEM and interconnectivity.

“These are things we’ve always cared about as a young professional council,” said Andrew Prystai, 2018 Programming Liasion Chair. “These are things that we always try to promote so it was a very natural way of [deciding] which conversations we wanted to have.”

It’s no secret that these factors are what grow strong cities. Last week, Yelp released the Yelp Local Economic Outlook which ranked Omaha third out of fifty up-and-coming cities when accounting for factors like rent prices, neighborhoods, regulations as they apply to small businesses, business opportunities and economic health.

The results of the ranking echo what the YP Summit is promoting as necessary conversations in order for Omaha to continue to grow through the retention and attraction of young professional talent.

“We have a lot of really qualified people leaving Omaha because they don’t feel like they have the opportunities here,” said Prystai. “We don’t necessarily have a job shortage but we have a talent shortage. If anyone with a college degree is walking out of Omaha by choice, that’s a problem.”

In terms of why people are staying, coming back and leaving, Prystai said that most people’s reasons fit into three categories.

“You have your Omaha lifers, your boomerangs and your transplants who move to Omaha as young professionals,” said Prystai. “If we can have events like this where people start putting down those roots [and] start building these friendships and networks where they feel they can have an impact and make real change, then hopefully they’ll choose to stay in Omaha and help improve Omaha for all of us.”

Prystai said that his particular passion is in the conversation around entrepreneurship and STEM and how they pertain to building the next generation of jobs that will attract and retain more young professionals.

“You don’t have to move to Seattle, you don’t have to move to San Diego, you don’t have to move to Kansas City,” said Prystai. “We might not be able to keep everyone who wants to move to a coast from doing that, but we should definitely be more competitive with other [Midwest] cities that are our peers.”

He thinks it’s a matter of showing young people what values the Midwest really has to offer.

“We can show that you can really make an impact here, you can really succeed,” said Prystai. “You can come here and be an entrepreneur [or an artist] without having to struggle like you would on the coast. You can live your dream and be comfortable.”

But the awareness of what Omaha has to offer will only be spread through setting actionable goals in conjunction with the conversations. State of Our City is hoping to do both by engaging the city’s young people who are looking to make an impact.

“As we continue to expand efforts to attract and retain talent, it is important for us to take an honest look at where we’ve come from, where we are, and what we have yet to accomplish in order to make our community a place where everyone truly has access to opportunities to thrive, regardless of the zip code they live in,” said Shonna Dorsey, VP of Community Engagement, Marketing and Member Services for AIM and leader in the STEM/Entrepreneurship category.

The event’s four areas of conversation will happen simultaneously so attendees can choose the one they’re most interested in. Sessions will last for 45 minutes with 3-4 conversation leaders per group. Leaders will give challenge statements to the audience with the goal of having actionable steps that everyone can take to address the issues presented.

Scheduled group leaders are:

STEM/Entrepreneurship:
Shonna Dorsey – AIM
Nathan Preheim – The Startup Collaborative
Julian Young – START Center
Rebecca Stavick – DoSpace

Transportation:
Jeff Spiehs (also helps coordinate 1MC) – MAPA
Jason Rose – Metro
Mary O’Donohue  – Midtown 2050

Diversity
Ashley Turner – GOCYP – Inclusion and Diversity Survey
Morgan Freeman – United Way
Danielle Powell – Inclusive Communities

Arts / Culture
Rachel Jacobsen – Filmstreams
Dawaune Hayes – Union for Contemporary Arts
Marcey Yates – New Generation Music Festival

The Interconnectivity in the City session will feature guest speaker, Councilman Pete Festersen. The evening’s keynote speaker for the general event is former Councilman Franklin Thompson on behalf of Omaha’s Human Rights and Relations department.

“We see anyone from the ages of 20 to 40 as being a young professional, but if you’re a little younger or a little older than that and still feel that you’re a young professional at heart, we’d love to have you there,” said Prystai. “Really, it’s anybody who wants to get involved in the Omaha community and really help make an impact on Omaha as a whole.”

State of Our City will be held at the Center for Advanced and Emerging Technology on Metro’s Campus on November 9th. Registration is $10 and includes the event and after party. Click here to register with coupon code STARTUP and save $3 on registration.

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Christine McGuigan is the Managing Editor of Silicon Prairie News.

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