• WisBusiness

Monday, March 16, 2015

MaryBeth Matzek: Young professional groups come together to slow Wisconsin brain drain

By MaryBeth Matzek
Between 2008 and 2012, an average of 14,000 college graduates left Wisconsin annually, with most of those between the ages of 21 and 29, according to data compiled by University of Wisconsin professor Morris Davis.

To slow the brain drain, young professional groups across the state will team up next month for a series of events to get the under 40 set excited and more engaged in their surroundings. The expansion is based on NEWaukee's successful young professional week.

That program started four years ago and features a variety of events and activities designed to get workers fired up and excited about living in Milwaukee, says Angela Damiani, president for Milwaukee's young professional organization.

"It's a very fast pace of activities and creates a real buzz and excitement," she says. "It really shows off what Milwaukee has to offer. Young professionals want to be involved, but they want to be asked and this is a great way to do that."

The unique activities, for example, include a naked ballet event where young professionals mingle in a ballroom and ballet dancers come out and perform to music that most wouldn't expect.

"It's an interesting collision of experiences," Damiani says. "Young professionals may have never been to a ballet and wouldn't know what to expect so here is something they can see and get a taste and it opens up the ballet to a whole new demographic."

Damiani says community and business leaders have been very responsive to the variety of activities. "There's a unique sense of leadership and access to leadership here and people are interested in participating," she says. "We believe if we show them this side of the city, it will help them be more interested in putting down roots and staying."

Last year, 4,000 people participated in 34 different events.

Based on NEWaukee's success, the Wisconsin Economic Development Council (WEDC) brought together that group with other young professional organizations across the state to talk about what could be done to attract and retain younger workers. From that discussion, Young Professionals Week was born. It will be held from April 11 to April 18 in cities across Wisconsin. Statewide, 85 events will be held in Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Appleton, Wausau and Kenosha.

Tricia Braun, deputy secretary and WEDC COO, says the week marks the first time the organizations have worked together to promote Wisconsin as a great place for young professionals to work and live.

"We have heard from companies and our economic development partners around the state that attracting and retaining young professionals is a top concern for businesses," she says. "This is a national issue, and we are pleased to help build a collaborative, statewide effort to engage young talent."

For a rundown of the week's activities – which range from a cooking demonstration in Kenosha to neighborhood bus tours in Milwaukee, please visit http://www.ypweek.com.

In May, Damiani says representatives from the groups will get back together to see what worked and what didn't. "It's exciting to all be working together on this," she says. "When we first met, it was interesting to see we all had the same concerns and we all have exciting things going in our communities and this is a great way to bring it all together."

As part of YPWeek, the 2015 Bubbler Awards will recognize Wisconsin's best workplaces for young professionals. The deadline to apply is March 25 and the winners will be announced April 11, Damiani says. Companies are encouraged to nominate themselves. Information is available at http://www.ypweek.com.

New name for airport

Few people living outside the Appleton area realize that the local airport is called Outagamie County Regional Airport. And that, according to county officials, is part of the reason the airport is changing its name later this summer.

The airport will officially change its name to Appleton International Airport sometime in August once a new U.S. Customs and Border Protection station, which allows the airport to claim international status, opens.

The Outagamie County Board approved changing the airport's name to Appleton Airport last year, but since then the airport received conditional approval from the federal government to add the customs station. Customs inspection will allow private aircraft to land in Appleton without having to obtain clearance elsewhere. In addition, the airport would be able to bring in cargo from abroad. Requests for a customs station came from local businesses, says Airport Director Abe Weber.

By the way, the three-letter abbreviation for the airport is already ATW and that will not be changing.

Expanding network

SSM Health, the owner of three Wisconsin hospitals, Dean Clinic and Dean Health Plan, is joining the Integrated Health Network of Wisconsin, a clinically integrated network of major Wisconsin hospitals and the Medical College of Wisconsin.

SSM Health owns St. Mary's Hospital in Madison, St. Mary's Janesville Hospital and St. Clare Hospital in Baraboo.

By adding SSM, Integrated Health Network expands its geographic presence into south-central Wisconsin. Besides SSM, the network includes Agnesian HealthCare, Columbia St. Mary's, Froedtert Health, the Medical College of Wisconsin, Hospital Sisters Health System, Ministry Health Care, Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare and many independent physician partners.

-- Matzek, a freelance writer and editor, is the owner of 1Bizzy Writer. She has worked in the past as a news editor at Insight Publications and as business editor at the Appleton Post-Crescent.

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