Summit explains group's efforts to attract new jobs

LAWRENCEVILLE - As one speaker at the inaugural Partnership Gwinnett Summit looked around the room, her assessment was simple: the audience, composed of mostly Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce members, looked a little old.

"It looks like every other chamber in the nation," said Sheila Curley, vice president of communications for the Tulsa Metro Chamber of Commerce. "Young professionals are not very well represented here today."

The Gwinnett chamber hopes to attract more young professionals ages 24 through 35 through its Partnership Gwinnett initiative, which looks to create 65,400 new jobs in the county over the next five years.

Wednesday's summit at Gwinnett Technical College featured several speakers who helped explain to the roughly 150 attendees the steps being taken by Partnership Gwinnett to create those jobs.

Curley, the day's final speaker, was brought in to explain her chamber's program to attract young workers (Tulsa's Young Professionals) and emphasize its economic importance.

"It's a new era in economic development," Curley said. "Efforts to attract new jobs and new businesses must be equal to your efforts to attract young professionals."

Curley encouraged the Gwinnett chamber to put funds toward such a project and to find a leader to head up a young professionals program.

Denise Townsend, chairwoman of the marketing and outreach action committee for Partnership Gwinnett, said there are plans to name a team leader for Gwinnett's young professionals program within the next couple of weeks.

Townsend said it's important to the county's economy to attract this demographic as baby boomers begin leaving the work force.

"It's really important for Gwinnett to have the younger professionals that will provide continuity as the baby boomers move into retirement," Townsend said.

Tulsa's program has been immensely popular since it started in April 2005. After five months, the chamber had 800 members; after a year 1,300 members; and by the end of 2006 had grown to 2,400 members.

Use of resources such as MySpace and YouTube have helped promote and grow Tulsa's Young Professionals.

Demming Bass, vice president of communications for the Gwinnett chamber, said the chamber plans to research Gwinnett's young professionals program this spring and summer. He said officials hope it will launch this fall or in the beginning of 2008.