A previous version of this story mistakenly referred to Auburn Chamber of Commerce member Richmond Gunter as Richard Gunter. We apologize for this error and all mentions of Gunter has been corrected.
Connect. Develop. Serve. This is the motto of the Auburn Young Professionals program that is a growing part of Auburn’s Chamber of Commerce, which held its yearly kickoff event on Thursday, Jan. 27.
AYP is a program that seeks to provide a space for 21-to-40-year-olds to socialize, talk business and learn new ways to impact their community. They hold meetings two to three times per month at various locations. Going on into its sixth year of operation, Auburn Young Professionals has seen substantial growth in its early stages.
“AYP has given the young, professional community here a place to come, grow, meet and talk about the different things that they feel like need to happen in our community,” said AYP Program Coordinator Katie Murray.
Murray, and many other attendees, feel that AYP has filled a hole in Auburn’s post-graduate population. Many believe that through AYP, Auburn is creating a more vibrant scene for recent graduates to thrive locally. This effort has led to many no longer feeling the need to move to find work; work is becoming easier to find in Auburn after graduating.
“When I moved back into town, the first thing I was looking for was a way to build a community and connections in the Auburn-Opelika area," said Chamber member Richmond Gunter about his time with AYP. "Auburn Young Professionals has been a huge asset in doing that.”
The connections made through AYP are not determined by age. Anyone from a new college graduate to someone who has owned their own business for years is welcome. It is all about getting to know others with similar interests and outlooks for the future of Auburn.
“Hopefully I can meet some people with like-minds and we can get something done in the community and professional world." said Dennis Davis, first-time AYP attendee.
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AYP appears to be a space made up of like-minded individuals. This event consisted largely of progressive people who sought to better the Auburn-Opelika area as a community through innovative business opportunities and service projects.
“AYP provides a service component where members can be partners with non-profit organizations and provide opportunities for them to serve in the community,” Chamber President and CEO Anna Hovey said. "I think it’s provided a good base of volunteers.”
AYP works to help and build not only future business leaders, but also service leaders. They put an emphasis on a community being more than a place to start businesses. A community requires service just as much as it does business, which adds a very humane label to a program that many may initially just view as a way to generate revenue.
“It has brought me closer to the Auburn community,” said Whitney Lee in response to how AYP has affected her. “There’s a lot of non-profits, for-profits, that I’ve really been able to connect what I do to what they do, and I’ve built a lot of meaningful, intentional relationships.”
While this program is attractive to those in the business and service world, it has also gained much favor with Auburn’s mayor, Ron Anders.
“Extremely positive,” Anders said when asked how he viewed AYP’s impact on the community. “These are the future leaders of Auburn and I’m excited that they want to be engaged in their community at this stage in their life,” he continued.
Anders believes that the targeted group of AYP contributes heavily to its success. Being that the general populace of an AYP meeting is relatively young, they often bring new, innovative ideas that will benefit the area even as it is changing and growing.
“What’s great about this program is that it’s introducing all of these outstanding, young professionals to all the different ways that they can make Auburn a better place. To me it’s been valuable that this started at this time, because even though they might be busy with building their careers and they might be busy with young families at home, if they’ll just give a sliver of that time to the community, it’ll make Auburn a better place,” said Anders.
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