MERRILLVILLE │Young professionals from Northwest Indiana gathered Thursday to discuss indicators they feel are vital to the success and well-being of the region they work and live in.
The NWI Emerging Leaders One Region Summit at Innsbrook Country Club brought together four young professional groups from Lake, LaPorte and Porter counties to formalize key public policy initiatives they can all get behind.
Jeremy Miller, COO of Lake Area United Way, which sponsored the summit, said the groups have been doing networking and other social movement work, but now it was time to “get to the meat and bones of public policy discussion.”
“It’s a collaborative effort to get some public policy direction from our young leaders,” he said. “We often assume we think we know what’s important to them but we never brought them to the table and said, ‘Hey what do you guys think? What do you want to work on? What should we be focusing on?’ It’s bringing the One Region concept to a younger crowd to get them more engaged.”
One Region: Improving the quality of Life in Northwest Indiana, also sponsored the summit. Executive Director Dennis Rittenmeyer told the emerging leaders that the organization “wants to see how you see the very same issues other people have looked at.”
Matt Glaros is the president of the young professionals group Emerge South Shore, which was represented at the summit. He said the summit was a way to show a more united front among emerging leaders — the young people who want to make a difference in Northwest Indiana.
“The end goal is to find one action item to focus on and get collective groups of people behind one initiative and try to make an impact with that initiative,” he said.
Mackenna Dickt works for United Way of Porter County and is in charge its Young Leaders United group.
She said they want to see what can be done that would keep young professionals from leaving the area and also bring in more people.
Cara Vice, a member of the Young Leaders United, said one of the biggest things discussed is why a lot of young people aren’t choosing to stay in the region.
“The focus I think for tonight is to have the discussion they’re having on higher levels on what’s important to young people and what are initiatives we can get behind and support and engage our networks in to support so we can better the region and increase the number of young professionals to stay,” she said.
Representing the Young Professionals for the Urban League of Northwest Indiana was Jennifer Holmes, its president, who said seasoned leaders have identified concerns in the region and know it will soon be time to “pass the baton” to the next generation, who will move forward with them.
State Sen. Ed Charbonneau attended the summit to “get the younger generation’s perspective.”
“I think we have a whole new generation of young folks coming in with different priorities and different perspectives on what we need in Northwest Indiana to make this the thriving area that we all want it to be,” he said.
Times Publisher and One Region board co-chair Chris White said he was proud to be part of the summit.
“On behalf of One Region and The Times we support this group and look forward to great things to come,” he said.