Scotland County’s youngest professionals are drawing together to give their peers a leg up in the community.
The Laurinburg-Scotland County Area Chamber of Commerce held the inaugural meeting of its Young Professionals’ Network-Scotland on Tuesday evening at Wooly McDuff’s Neighborhood Grille. The aim of the group is to create a social and professional network for those aged 21-40 living or working in Scotland County.
“What we’re really trying to do is get people our age more involved in the community, and give them something to do and a way to meet people,” said Currie McCook, head of the YPN steering committee and daughter of County Commissioner Guy McCook. “I’m from Laurinburg and I moved back home after college and I spent a year not hanging out with anybody. I was amazed at all the people that are here once I started working on this.”
Currie McCook is a graduate of N.C. State University and an employee of Butler Manufacturing. Scotland High School band director Britton Goodwin, attorney Joe Fulton, Scotland County Schools public information officer Andy Cagle, and Scotland High School GEAR UP Family and Community Facilitator Holly Goodwin are also on the committee. Committee member Mary Margaret Thames, a graduate of UNC-Pembroke, is employed by her family’s commercial construction company.
Thames said that the group will give young professionals an outlet to share the trials and triumphs of starting a career in a small town while also developing the ties to the community that will give them an incentive to remain here.
“It’s difficult getting your foot in the door and getting your elders to take you seriously and treat you as a professional,” said Thames. “Ever since I’ve started volunteering with the Chamber with Laurinburg After Five and the oyster roast, it’s helped me to become more involved and build better relationships with older professionals.”
Some 50 people attended the first meeting, with attendees employed in the education, agricultural, clerical, medicine, sales, and customer service fields. Many attendees were area natives, though some have been transplanted from outside of North Carolina.
“The only way that a community survives and continues to grow is if there are good young people coming back home,” said chamber board member and YPN advisor Harley Norris. “I look around this room and I see a lot of young people who were born and raised in this area. For one reason or another you’ve come home; either you liked it here and you never wanted to leave, this was the only place you could find a job, or your mom had an extra house and you’re living in it - whatever the situation is, you came home. And while you’re home, we want you to feel at home.”
YPN-Scotland will meet monthly at different businesses owned by chamber members. Though it is a professional organization, meetings will be more convivial than formal.
“It’s a network, it’s not show up in your suit and tie,” said Fulton.
The group will also hold two outings or holiday gatherings annually, as well as an annual fundraiser. By providing a forum for social engagement between young professionals, YPN’s organizers hope the group will foster productive business relationships.
“So many times people say there’s no opportunity and there’s nothing to do in Laurinburg. Your Chamber recognizes that you all have started down your career paths, and we want to be supportive of that,” said chamber Chairman David McLamb. “I encourage you to reach out to the people in this community. You never know when someone is going to need your services and having that face and having that relationship makes the difference in your success.”
The annual Young Professional Network Scotland membership fee is $75 for employees of chamber members and $125 for employees of non-members. YPN is also seeking a few additional steering committee members. Those interested in joining can submit an application at the Chamber of Commerce on Atkinson Street. For information, call the chamber at 276-7420.