June Archer produces music records in New York, lives in New Jersey and
promotes networking events for young professionals in Connecticut.
The 33-year-old Hartford native - a Central Connecticut State University
graduate - also keeps a residence downtown. He believes if the region
can offer an active social scene for the 21- to 34-year-old crowd, it
can go a long way in retaining them when they begin looking for work.
A recently released economic study bemoaning Connecticut's miserable
job generation over the past 15 years - ranking 43rd among the 50 states
- will certainly become fodder for next year's gubernatorial elections.
But an underreported fallout from the trend is equally troubling - the
evaporation of the state's young professionals.
From 1990 to 2000, Connecticut had the largest shrinkage in the 18- to
34-year-old group of any state in the country, according to the Connecticut
Economic Resource Center Inc. More than 200,000 left the state from this
key demographic - a sector that not only makes advertisers drool, but
is essential in attracting companies looking to relocate.
What's left is an aging state renowned for its high taxes, top-flight
education and as a great place to raise a family. But if you're young,
single and upwardly mobile, living here can be a bummer.
"In one sense, I'm very surprised, but in another sense I'm not," Archer
said. "There's not enough going on in the area to keep that demographic."
Hang on. Things are beginning to change. Across the Hartford region and
beyond, events for young professionals are attracting big crowds.
Archer has promoted several popular events in the city, including Hot
Chocolate Soul at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, with music,
comedy, poetry and a live band for urban professionals. He's also put
on a Hartford Life networking event at the former G. Fox building. Other
social events, promoted by others and geared specifically for young, single
professionals, include Salsa Nights in the Hartford region and New Haven;
and First Fridays in Glastonbury, Hartford and East Windsor.
This week at the Wadsworth Atheneum
Museum of Art, they had to turn folks away as more than 1,000 mostly
young professionals attended its quarterly "Collage" event,
which uses art exhibitions, music and libations to broaden the
While young people want to work hard and play even harder, the singles
I talked to also want to establish roots. Affordable housing, real public
transportation and diverse entertainment options would help balance the
lack of jobs. If those amenities are in place, just imagine what happens
when the economy turns for the better.
"What people are looking for is a sense of community," said
Michael Gannon, 26, who works at The Hartford in corporate relations. "You
can feel isolated here as a young person. We're not ready for
the picket fence yet, but that doesn't mean we need more bars to go to
- quite the opposite."
Alison Costa, 28, is the marketing coordinator for the Hartford Image
Project, which is trying to change the image of the capital city into
one where folks feel compelled to live, work and play. The target market
is those 21 to 35. She sat with a group of young professionals at the
Pour House Restaurant in Hartford last Monday. Besides social and volunteer
outlets, the group also expressed a need for mentors to help them navigate
work - and life.
Javon Witter and Delroy Ross, both 22 and from Bloomfield, who graduated
from the University of Connecticut, are so bullish on the prospects for
young professionals in the region that they've partnered on a website
business - www.hartfordbuzz.com.
"People say, `Oh, Hartford has nothing,' so we went out and did
all this research to show people that there are things to do," Ross
For example, tonight at the Zen Bar
in Farmington, there is a masquerade party. Witter and Ross also have
promoted a "White" party at
Club Blu in Hartford, where everybody dresses in white.
Maybe the next resource center report will show that from 2000 to 2010,
Connecticut started to attract, instead of repel, its next generation
But entertainment alone won't cut it.
It's going to take work.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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