Brandon Tester: Join the conversation, young professionals

Published 8:42 pm Tuesday, February 1, 2022

It’s a question local leaders deal with on a daily basis: How do we keep young people in Beaufort County?

More specifically, how do you encourage young people who’ve grown up in Beaufort County to stay here, to start their careers here, to start their families here? And how do you entice young professionals outside of the county to come here and contribute the local community and economy?
If you consider eastern North Carolina as a whole, Beaufort County isn’t alone in its struggle to keep young people from relocating. But it’s an issue that needs serious attention, particularly as our local workforce ages and retires out. It’s an issue that affects our county’s economic development capabilities, tax base, livability and so much more.

Several ongoing local initiatives are meant to help keep young people in Beaufort County. The recently revealed Made in Beaufort County marketing package, for instance, encourages people to “live, work and play” locally, by showcasing the county’s entrepreneurial and industrial offerings and providing pathways for students to establish their careers here. The Inner Banks STEM Center introduces students to science, technology, engineering and math concepts, while also showing them how they can put their skills to use here in eastern North Carolina.

Programs like those are essential for Beaufort County and surrounding areas in terms of education, economic development and marketing. But when it comes to retaining young people in our region, all of that work will only go so far if the community as a whole isn’t involved. There are discussions that need to take place, and everyone, regardless of age, needs a seat at the table.

A lot of the conversations I’ve witnessed or heard about regarding how to keep young professionals here far too often don’t involve young professionals. That’s abefuddling trend, but it’s not necessarily anyone’s fault; there just hasn’t been much of an organized effort to get younger demographics involved in the conversation.

That could change with the recent reemergence of the Beaufort County Young Professionals, a group that was originally started in 2014 by the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce. The group’s purpose is to provide networking and professional development opportunities for individuals ages 21-35.

The membership fee is $25, and that covers January 2022-23. That fee supports the group’s programming. You can see a lineup of upcoming events on Facebook by looking up “Young Professionals of Beaufort County, NC” on Facebook. The next event is an After-Hours Social at Wine & Words & Gourmet on Wednesday, Feb. 2 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.

As a member of Young Professionals, I can say we have several exciting plans in the works — and one of those plans is helping to facilitate the discussions I mentioned earlier.

So, if you are a young professional, stop by and see what the group has to offer. You’ll be able to make new connections and learn about how you can help make a significant difference here in Beaufort County.

Brandon Tester is the news editor of The Washington Daily News.