Moses Lake, WA 98837, USA

Keeping young professionals in the Columbia Basin with ugly sweaters

By EMRY DINMAN For the Basin Business Journal

The Columbia Basin is a region with great economic opportunity, drawing in young workers from across the state and beyond who are looking for jobs with decent pay in the area’s industrial market.

Yet, it can be difficult for some of those young professionals to meet with others like them, and some in the community are working toward retaining those bright, young workers long enough that they might truly call consider the Columbia Basin home. Enter: the Young Professionals of the Columbia Basin.

The Young Professionals group began meeting in 2012, when a group of young men and women working in the region decided they wanted to create a space for others like them to meet and develop a deeper sense of community.

“We just wanted a place where young professionals could come together and meet each other and feel like a part of the community,” said Emily Smith, a member of the Young Professionals’ planning committee. “We started the group and got good participation and went from there.”

The Columbia Basin is in a unique position, Smith said, in that it draws a lot of people who are from outside of the region and are looking for work.

“We have a large industrial industry, and they recruit in a lot of young college students who aren’t from the area, or who maybe just moved back to the area,” Smith said. “In order to get them engaged and keep them in the community long-term, it’s really important to make them feel welcome and part of the community.”

Part of that is disrupting the habits of transplants who haven’t developed a strong social group in their new towns, Smith said. 

[caption id="attachment_2271" align="alignright" width="300"] Courtesy photo - Networking and ugly sweaters keep the Young Professionals of the Columbia Basin group going strong after six years.[/caption]

“It’s important to disrupt the tendency to go out to Seattle or Spokane on the weekends,” Smith said. “If we give them activities to do here, they will stay here long term.”

Getting out to new members has been a grass-roots effort, Emily said, with the group initially lobbying businesses, developing relationships with the Moses Lake Chamber of Commerce, and otherwise getting out into the community to find young professionals without a social group.

The group meets quarterly, holding events with speakers from local businesses, trivia nights, and ugly sweater nights.

Attendance can vary depending on the event, Smith said, with anywhere from 18 to 50 people coming out every quarter. Attendees tend to circulate from event to event as well, providing an opportunity to meet new people every time, Smith said.