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October 26, 2015 | Tom Ballard

PART 1: YPK leaders discuss community attractiveness to Millennials

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first article in a three-part series discussing the Knoxville community through the eyes of three leaders of an organization named Young Professionals of Knoxville.)

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

Visit the webpage of Young Professionals of Knoxville (YPK), and you’ll readily see why the organization exists.

“We’re committed to the vision of ‘our’ Knoxville – a place where young professionals serve the community; unite with one another, and inspire greatness. We seek to develop relationships with ambitious, skilled, and selfless members across a myriad of careers and industries within the Knoxville community.”

YPK was established in late 2006 and counts more than 120 people in its membership. All of the members are 40 years old or younger.

Locally, whether among Millennials, Baby Boomers or every generation in between, there’s considerable interest in determining the best strategies to attract young professionals and creatives and making the city so attractive they don’t want to leave.

The University of Tennessee (UT) is certainly one of the magnets, and the new Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education, a joint effort between UT and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, has accelerated the interest.

We wanted to explore the topic of being as attractive to young professionals as we could through the eyes of the individuals who are part of the target audience – members of YPK. During a recent roundtable discussion, three of the organization’s leaders shared their candid thoughts on the topic.

They were: Jim LaPinska, YPK’s President who is a Financial Advisor and Field Director for Northwestern Mutual Financial Network; Danielle Benson, YPK’s Immediate Past President who is Director of Training for the Alliance for Better Non-Profits; and Alan Moore, YPK’s Treasurer and a Vice President and Trust Officer for First Tennessee Bank. (See more about their backgrounds by clicking here.)

Ironically, none of the three was born here and only Moore grew-up here, moving to Knoxville when he was in the ninth grade.

Moore is from Jackson, MS, came for a law degree at UT, and planted roots through marriage.

“Knoxville has Southern roots, but it is also a melting pot, unlike many other cities,” he says. “It has both a small town and larger city dynamic.”

Benson originally called Denver home, but also came for a UT education. Her LinkedIn profile shows a history of work with service organizations, something that she clearly values.

“It’s so easy to get engaged in Knoxville,” Benson says. “It’s so easy to have access to power players if you just ask, unlike Denver.”

In LaPinska’s case, he was looking for a Division III school where he could continue to participate in athletics. That journey ended at Maryville College.

“What drew me to Maryville College was that Knoxville existed,” LaPinska says.

NEXT: The YPK panel’s view of Knoxville’s assets and challenges.

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