Leading Question

By Hannah Wallace January 31, 2009

With area growth stagnant, school enrollment falling short of projections (Manatee saw 1,331 fewer students last fall compared to the previous year, and Sarasota had 953 fewer students), and workers in the building trades heading to greener pastures, does it follow that the young professionals in Sarasota and Manatee counties will look for opportunities elsewhere? 

The answer, at least for now, seems to be “no.” The consensus among area leaders in the young professionals community is that there have been job losses—not surprisingly in the real estate sales and development industries—but those affected are committed to the area and working hard to forge new opportunities so they can stay.

“I don’t see people leaving,” says Will Robinson, a Bradenton lawyer who heads up the Manatee Chamber of Commerce’s Young Professionals. “On the contrary, the Chamber’s YPG membership is growing. And that is probably because people are networking more due to the tight job market.” The group’s membership reached 1,780 in 2008, up more than 200 from 2007.

The Sarasota Chamber’s Young Professionals Group is holding strong at 680 members, an indication, says YPG president Patrick Kilbane, 29, that the 21-to-40 crowd is committed to the area.

“There seems to have been an uptick in the last 12 months or so of people being laid off,” Kilbane says, “But those people are staying here and most are able to find work.”

“People are doing everything they can to stay,” says Robinson. “They are networking, making new contacts, meeting new people. They want to stay.”

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