Jonathan Taylor, owner of Soldotna’s Artistic Puppy Creative, was named the first Young Professional of the Year at the inaugural statewide young professionals summit.
The Young Professionals Group, based out of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, has more than 400 active members throughout Alaska and hosted the meeting April 1-2 in Anchorage. Pamela Parker, programs coordinator for the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center, said Taylor’s award put the central Kenai Peninsula on the map less than a year after the Kenai Young Professionals really took root.
“Jon has really been integral in this process,” Parker said. “The people he knows in the community and way he presents information to people brought so many people to the table, and they keep coming back.”
The group’s first event was in November and 40-plus people packed the Odies Deli at the Kenai Municipal Airport, Parker said. Since the kickoff, membership has steadily risen to 70 active members, who span the age range for all young professionals 21 through 39 years old, she said.
Taylor, who is also the chairman of the KYP’s Advisory Council, said he has been continuously impressed with the variety of the workforce represented by attendees. Many are supporting secondary businesses while moving forward in their primary career, for example one member works for Tesoro, and keeps up an aerial photography business on the side, he said.
“There are people who come who are about to age out of the program,” Taylor said.
“People see value in connecting with the young professionals group.”
He said the older members are bridging the gap between established and upcoming community professionals, which was one of the main goals the group was formed to accomplish.
By 2020, it is projected that one in four residents on the Kenai Peninsula will more than 60 years old, Parker said. A big gap exists between the established and fledgling business owners, she said. That is why building a supportive network for those looking to be a part of Kenai’s future are important right now, she said.
Taylor said the main focus for starting the group was to connect young professionals with other young professionals who could offer support to and trade tips with one another. By creating these connections they are also planning for a bigger picture, which is the long-term viability and health of the local economy, he said.
Parker and Taylor said another objective of the young professionals is to teach each other the importance of giving back to the community as well, which is one of the reasons Taylor snagged the award this year.
He said the YPG wanted to see how a business or young professional has impacted their community beyond the pursuit of the “bottom line.”
“A lot of people see the future of the economy as this age group,” Taylor said. “How awesome is it to unite now and plot the road ahead.”
Reach Kelly Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org