Q — What is the mission and what are some of the goals of Mississippi Young Professionals?
A — Mississippi Young Professionals serves to create a network that will connect, develop, empower and retain young professionals in Mississippi through community involvement, professional development and social interaction. The organization works to create a shared vision that will help retain and recruit young talent to Mississippi, while also promoting the state as a tourist destination by showcasing its benefits to young executives, such as the relative low cost-of-living and high quality of life. It will also serve as a clearinghouse organization for all of the 20-plus YP groups across the state.
Q — How did MSYP get started?
A — We saw the need last year – based primarily on the numerous findings in Blueprint Mississippi. We started contacting YPs across the state in the summer to gauge their interest. I had originally discussed a statewide initiative with Kimberly Nastasi, CEO of the Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce, back in 2007 when we were both trying to get our respective YP groups – Coast Young Professionals and Young Professionals of Meridian – off the ground. At the time, Mississippi Power’s David Buckner initiated a joint venture in which we met to discuss best practices for our groups. It was great to have another group to share ideas with and find out things that worked and didn’t work. Kimberly was one of the first ones I reached out to last year and she was eager to help get it started. Since our collaboration was so beneficial back in 2007, we thought it would be great to connect all of the regions of Mississippi. The Mississippi Development Authority, under the new leadership of Brent Christensen, decided to coordinate the effort and I began work on the project at the end of 2012. The board met for the first time in January and we decided at that time to plan a summit for the spring to kick off our inaugural year. Since then, we’ve been working to raise private investment from business partners for the event.
Q — Tell us about the upcoming summit slated for April in Meridian.
A — We wanted it to be different. The board really stressed the issue of having a kick-off event that was different from every other conference out there. Our tagline for the summit is “Rethink Mississippi: No Suits, No PowerPoints, No Bull.” We wanted it to be an event that provided a laidback dress code with an action-packed agenda. The two-day event will be held April 25-26 at the Mississippi State University Riley Center, located at 2200 Fifth Street in downtown Meridian. Speakers at the two-day event include Gov. Phil Bryant, Peavey Electronics founder and chief executive officer Hartley Peavey, creative instigator and speaker Dyana Valentine, Civil Rights leader Roscoe Jones Sr., young business owner Keyes Kennard of Mobile Solutions and Paromita Mitra, Miss Mississippi USA 2013. Topics to be covered include: Post It to Facebook, Let’s Go to Work, Innovation Can Happen in Mississippi, Never Say Never and LinkedIn(to) It. The event will also include plenty of networking opportunities.
The cost to attend the MSYP 2013 Summit is $75 per person, which includes a special t-shirt created by Mississippi designer Donnie Wahl, four meals and admission to a social event on April 25. The social will include complimentary crawfish and beverages, sponsored by Mitchell Distributing, as well as live entertainment in downtown Meridian’s Dumont Plaza. For more information and to register, visit our website at www.msyoungprof.org.
Q — What are some immediate ways to address the problem of too many of Mississippi’s young professionals leaving the state?
A — First off, we have to engage our age group – the under-50 crowd – and get them involved in the future of our state. The Mississippi Economic Council’s Blueprint Mississippi report noted that for our state to succeed, we must change the perception that we will be exporting half of our young talent to other states. We believe it is up to MSYP to help change that perception. Oftentimes it’s less about how others view us and more about how we view ourselves. We end up creating this dynamic of a self-fulfilling prophecy where the grass is greener on the other side (other states) because we’re fertilizing their grass by sending them all of our creativity, innovation and intellectual capital. We want our best and brightest young people to give Mississippi a second look and realize the opportunities our great state has to offer, while also using that momentum to recruit other young professionals to Mississippi. This group won’t be able to tackle every issue connected to the brain drain, but we believe this synergy is a good place to start.
Q — What are some long-term ways to do the same?
A — Through the work of MSYP, YP groups across the state, and through the collaboration with groups like the Brain Drain Commission, we want to begin to attack this issue of the perception that we will be exporting our talent to other states. If we can simply get young people to take a second look at our state, in many ways that’s half the battle.
Q — What do you hope for the future for MSYP?
A — My personal hope is that five years from now we’ll still be growing and our voice will be resonating with the right people to spark change. There’s no doubt in my mind that Mississippi is the greatest place on earth and it’s up to us to make it better. If there is a leadership void in this state, hopefully this group can start to fill it so that it overflows.
More on Carmichael:
Must have Mississippi food: Weidmann’s fried green tomatoes with their famous 1870s sauce in Meridian
Favorite movie: Breakin’ (1984). “Not for the substance, but for the childhood memories of break dancing on my grandmother’s coffee table.”
Last book read: “Explicit Gospel” by Matt Chandler
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