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October 27, 2015 | Tom Ballard

PART 2: YPK leaders discuss the region’s assets that help attract and retain their peers

YPK(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second 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.

The three leaders of Young Professionals of Knoxville (YPK) with whom we talked have decided to call Knoxville home.

They are: 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.

The three have established solid roots in the community, so they have informed opinions about the strengths and the weaker areas. One of those views is about access, a feature Benson called-out in the first article in this series.

“We have access to more things than in other cities,” LaPinska adds. “There’s a large academic institution (University of Tennessee), both a riverfront and mountains, economic growth, and innovation via ORNL (Oak Ridge National Laboratory).”

All of those attributes translate into what he characterizes as “a very appealing place for a successful professional to live. The deficiencies in other cities outweigh those in Knoxville.”

In his professional role with Northwest Mutual, LaPinska depends on relationships with people, so he has distinct views about the importance of connections. Those clearly intersect with the mission of YPK.

“If it’s only a job, you lose people,” he says in relation to the importance of getting young people engaged. “It’s about being connected to the community.”

There are also priorities that Knoxville has established to be more attractive to professionals and creatives, regardless of age.

“When I arrived in Knoxville, Market Square was not what it is today,” Moore noted about the vibrant area that attracts large crowds many nights a week.

Our observation was the trio planned to remain in Knoxville for years to come, but those decisions could be impacted by some challenges they articulated. The list ranges from a vibrant nightlife and more opportunities for single professionals to public transportation, a more diverse population mix, a better defined brand, and more collaboration.

LaPinska probably said it best.

“As a city, we are a whole lot better that we used to be, but we are overly conservative in many aspects, and this turns off the very talent we are seeking to recruit and retain,” he observes.

NEXT: The YPK panel’s thoughts on these topics.

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