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Detroit Lakes Young Professionals group looks to expand its membership and focus

Josh Hochgraber, left, and Amy Jacobson are the co-founders of the DL Young Professionals.1 / 2
The DL Young Professionals group held an "ugly sweater" gathering at Zorbaz last Thursday.2 / 2

Q: What do ugly sweaters, nursing homes, Internet advertising and the Chamber of Commerce have in common? A: The DL Young Professionals, of course.

"There are lots of places to socialize and see some people," co-organizer Josh Hochgraber said. "I wanted an avenue to meet people in a different setting."

When then-Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce president Dave Hochhalter sent out a notice that there was interest in starting a Young Professionals club in Detroit Lakes, Amy Jacobson and Hochgraber answered the call.

They got together and brainstormed about how to start the club. Hochgraber said their talents complimented each other, as Jacobson knows how to organize an event, with her profession being just that at The ClubHouse Hotel. Hochgraber works for Marco, and Jacobson said he knows how to do the promotional aspect of the socialization.

"It started with a list of friends and who might be interested, not knowing what to expect," Jacobson said.

In December of 2007, they held their first gathering, with about 35 people in attendance.

"In the beginning, it was just socializing and networking," Jacobson said.

Then they tried to find a niche and determine who the club would attract.

"Are we trying to be like the Jaycees? No, we're more focusing on the younger groups," she said.

Although there is no set age for who can or can't attend, the group is targeting the 25-35 age group, or anyone considered "young at heart."

"But we'd never turn anyone away," she stressed, adding that they want everyone to feel welcome.

With the group finding its base, the desire now is to expand both in numbers and what the group does. They have talked about giving a scholarship in the DL Young Professionals' name for the new Business and Entrepreneurial Services program at Minnesota State Community & Technical College as one of those future things.

Jacobson said everyone in the group comes from different businesses and everyone comes with different educational backgrounds, as well.

She said the point was to open up social and professional networks for those involved. Being from the Detroit Lakes area originally, Jacobson said, sometimes you see people in a restaurant or something and don't know them other than just seeing them out. Some people may just stick to the people they know, the ones they grew up with.

"You get in a rut, which is great because they're your friends for a reason, but it's nice to meet people in a professional (circle) too," she continued.

"We want to attract and retain young professionals to the Detroit Lakes area," Hochgraber said.

The DL Young Professionals meet once a month, usually the third Thursday of each month from 5:30 to 7 p.m., at various locations throughout Detroit Lakes. This month, they met at Zorbaz for an ugly sweater contest. Next month, they will meet Feb. 10 for an open house at the Chamber of Commerce.

There will be a membership drive and a chance for the Chamber to showcase what it has to offer. The DL Young Professionals is a committee under the Chamber's umbrella.

There will be time for speed networking, where people will have a minute to network one-on-one about their business and careers before moving on to the next person.

Although there is always a social aspect to the gathering, they "pretty much always have an educational aspect" as well," Hochgraber said.

He said with the local resources available, the group is here to show people they "don't have to go to a bigger city to get everything."

With the educational aspect, they have toured the St. Mary's Innovis Health nursing home, Oak Crossing, for one. Jacobson said it was interesting because it's likely none of them would have toured the new facility on their own time. And while they may not be needing nursing home services any time soon, they may have loved ones who do or will in the near future.

They've also gotten presentations on drawing up wills, Internet advertising and other topics club members might not normally have, she added.

Hochgraber said the goal is to have those involved with the club have more ownership and involvement with the planning of the club. There are about 25-30 members, although the distribution list, sent out by the Chamber, numbers 100 people.

"We're very fortunate to have this in a community where businesses show their support," Hochgraber said of the young professionals organization.

For more information about the group, contact Becky at the Chamber of Commerce at 847-9202, Josh Hochgraber at 847-1395 or Amy Jacobson at 847-2121.