FloridaTrend.com, the Website for Florida Business


These Young Floridians Are Well-Connected

Joe Hansen
“The goal of Connect Florida is to make a large state like Florida seem a little smaller.” — Joe Hansen [Photo: Michael McElroy / Wonderful Machine]

Connect Florida

Joe Hansen states upfront that his goal someday is to run for elective office in Florida. The Long Island native moved to Palm Beach County two years ago after college in Rhode Island, where he participated in College Leadership Rhode Island. He joined Connect Florida at its initial meeting in July 2006.

Connect Florida
(connectflorida.org)
Location: Statewide
Chairman: Joe Hansen, 24, account executive, Profile Marketing & Public Relations Highland Beach
Members: 280
Ages: 21 to 35
Formed: 2006
Dues: $60 annually
Social networks: LinkedIn

Connect Florida was created by Leadership Florida to introduce young professionals to the issues facing Florida, involve them with public policy activities and create a youth network around the state. “The young professionals were the people who were getting overlooked,” says Connect Florida Executive Director Sara Bennett.

Connect Florida looked at local leadership groups and wanted to offer something different. It focuses on an annual meeting, sometimes in conjunction with Leadership Florida, and full-day or half-day regional meetings that include education about issues, networking, leadership skills training and volunteering.

IMPACTjax
Jacksonville young professionals
Jacksonville young professionals, from left: Lee Brown, Justin Spiller, Leah Donelan, Juan Diaz, Kristen Nimnicht, Mary Goldsmith and Marcus Haile
[Photo: Kelly LaDuke]

“It’s really opened my eyes to what Jacksonville has to offer.”
— Kristen Nimnicht

IMPACTjax
(impactjax.com)
Location: Jacksonville (affiliated with Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce)
Chairman: Juan Diaz, 32,
products group counsel, BAE Systems Products Group, Jacksonville
Chairman-elect: Kristen Nimnicht, 30,
account executive, Lat Purser & Associates, Jacksonville
Members: More than 450
Ages: 21 to 35
Formed: 2005
Dues: $50 a year for professionals working at companies that are members of the Jacksonville
Chamber; $70 for non-members
of the chamber
Social networks: myspace.com/impactjax

Attorney Juan Diaz grew up in the Orlando area, attended Florida State University and law school at the University of Florida and spent the first part of his career practicing in North Carolina. So he jumped at the opportunity to expand his network in Jacksonville. “It’s opened up so many opportunities,” says Diaz, who mentions that it provided entrée to Leadership Jacksonville, which he participated in last year.

IMPACTjax offers monthly professional development seminars and one-on-one mentoring and community service volunteering for the Ronald McDonald House, Jacksonville Humane Society, Habijax, the Mayport U.S.O., Big Brothers Big Sisters and Dignity U Wear. Social events include networking functions, cultural outings and sporting events. On the public policy front, there’s an “Art of Advocacy” and “Ready to Run” series of workshops as well as meetings with public officials.

Incoming IMPACTjax Chairman-elect Kristen Nimnicht, a retail property manager and leasing agent who grew up in Jacksonville, joined the group two years ago even though she had an extensive network of friends and family in the area. “I was looking for some ways to become a more engaged citizen,” says Nimnicht.

Orlando Young Professionals Leadership Group

Orlando young professionals
Back, from left: OYP members Justin Latorre, Kelly Jo Williamson, Kaleb Harrell, Jon Curran; front: Matt Scott, Victoria Colangelo [Photo: Betty Hansen]

“The intention of OYP is to develop leaders.”
— Victoria Colangelo

Orlando Young Professionals Leadership Group (orlandoyoungprofessional.com)
Location: Greater Orlando
President: Victoria Colangelo, 25,
vice president, Mitigation Marketing Orlando
Members: 30 (invitation only)
Ages: 21 to 35
Formed: 1994
Dues: $120 annually
Social networks: myspace.com/ orlandoyoungprofessionals

Orlando Young Professionals is one of the most selective young professionals groups in Florida. Although there is a social component, the focus is monthly meetings on a wide variety of topics.

OYP’s speaker list is impressive. Past speakers have included University of Central Florida President John Hitt, Darden Restaurants CEO Clarence Otis and former Orlando Mayor and Secretary of State Glenda Hood. Recent topics have included tax breaks for young professionals, business etiquette, corporate relationships and leadership training.

Prospective members must attend three events (which can include socials) before they’re invited to join. Because members come from diverse careers, it’s easy for them to help each other. As an example, Colangelo says her business has tapped OYP’s small network for outside graphic design and computer support.

It’s not all serious business, though. OYP was active in providing volunteers for September’s Central Florida Beer Festival to benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters. And there are monthly socials and an annual holiday party.

Orbis

Michael Schimmel (left) and David Scileppi
Michael Schimmel (left) and David Scileppi [Photo: Michael McElroy / Wonderful Machine]

“We are working hard to bring together people of like mind.”
— Michael Schimmel

Orbis (orbisusa.org)
Location: Greater Broward County (Boca Raton to Hollywood)
Co-founders:
Michael S. Schimmel, 30, and David C. Scileppi, 33, both attorneys with Gunster, Yoakley, Fort Lauderdale
Members: 530
Ages: Late 20s to 40
Formed: 2006
Dues: Free for basic membership, $25 for active membership (discounted admission at all Orbis events), $50 for committee members
Social networks: None

Fort Lauderdale attorneys Michael Schimmel and David Scileppi attended a number of south Florida meet-and-greet events before deciding to launch Orbis, a non-profit business group, in 2006. They didn’t like the hit-and-miss approach of business card exchanges and instead wanted to develop long-term relationships. Schimmel says of Orbis, “There is certainly a more sophisticated edge.”

The group meets five or six times a year to listen to speakers, volunteer or socialize. About 30 to 60 of the group’s 530 members attend any given event. At one recent event, Florida Atlantic University coach Howard Schnellenberger spoke, and each person in attendance helped support the American Cancer Society in honor of Schnellenberger’s son, who recently died from cancer. At another event, members volunteered at Tomorrow’s Rainbow, a center in Coconut Creek that provides interactions with miniature horses for children trying to overcome the loss of a loved one. While some events are just for fun, such as attending the Off-Broadway hit Tony & Tina’s Wedding at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, Schimmel says, “We don’t want to be a matchmaking organization.”

Network of Young Professionals

Network of Young Professionals
Clockwise from back: Dennis Bonga, Jake Money, Johanna Williams and Erin Malone [Photo: Ray Stanyard]

“There has been a definite progression in people’s commitment to Tallahassee.”
— Erin Malone

When Erin Malone first moved to Tallahassee from Georgia in 2005, her social and business network was limited. She spent most of her time working at the family business, MoreSpacePlace, with her mother and brother. Unlike many young Tallahassee professionals, she hadn’t attended Florida State University or Florida A&M, so she reached out to the Network of Young Professionals.

NYP’s tag line, “Live Work Play Stay,” promotes the idea that Tallahassee is a good place to build a career and a life. That message — that a young professional doesn’t have to move to Miami, Tampa, Orlando or Jacksonville to have a fulfilling life — is one that many young professionals organizations in Florida’s smaller cities and rural counties are pitching to young workers.

Network of Young Professionals
(networkyp.org)
Location: Tallahassee
President: Erin Malone, 28,sales associate,MoreSpacePlace Tallahassee
Members: 250 (900 subscribers to the group’s semi-monthly
e-newsletter)
Ages: Typically 21 to 40
Formed: 2003
Dues: $30 annually
Social networks: LinkedIn, MySpace (groups.myspace.com/ tallahasseeyoung professionals), Facebook

Malone says that NYP uses its annual survey of young professionals, which is published on its website, to get ideas for the group’s signature event, an annual community forum held in February. This year, for example, the focus was on the Knight Creative Communities Initiative. Like most young professionals groups, there are monthly social gatherings, but NYP also hosts frequent “how to” and “get informed” workshops.