Regional Young Professionals Meet

July 23, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — The Grand Rapids Young Professionals (GRYP), Holland Young Professionals (HYP) and Muskegon Young Professionals (MYP) will join forces next week to offer the first Regional Young Professional event.

The three fledgling groups have been loosely attached through a variety of professional associations and had planned the formation of a regional group from the very start; it was just matter of when.

"We all started out around the same time and we had discussed this from the beginning," HYP President Barry Rice explained. "We just wanted to get a few meetings under our belt, figure out how best to manage them and how they work. Now we felt it was time to do it."

Rice's group formed in December 2003 and the other two groups began holding meetings this past spring. Although HYP is the senior group, GRYP will host the meeting in Grand Rapids on the third floor of The BOB on Thursday, July 29.

"I think in the future we'll try to have it all around West Michigan," added GRYP President Kathy Apothekar.

The larger event will follow the same format of the local meetings, beginning at 5:30 with a keynote speaker followed by a casual networking experience. The groups, especially GRYP, have approached the meetings with the intent to not just provide a networking opportunity, but to tap into the local community and provide its members exposure to the region's community and business leaders and the knowledge and experience they can provide. In the past, speakers have represented institutions such as Huntington Bank and the YMCA speaking on issues from relocation to business etiquette.

The higher-profile event called for a higher-profile speaker, however, one that would have valuable lessons to teach as well as provide a draw for the Holland and Muskegon chapters.

Universal Forest Products chairman and former U.S. Ambassador to Italy Peter Secchia will be the featured speaker. The 67-year-old Secchia said he plans to share insights on the unique policies that made Universal a successful company.

"It'll be a talk on business for the young people and the future," Secchia said. "I'm always happy to talk to young people who are dedicated to building a business and learning how the stream of the economy flows."

The three groups boast nearly 400 members between them, but the distractions of summer and the longer drives are likely to be a deterrent. Apothekar estimated a turnout of slightly over 200. Secchia's presence could influence those numbers to go higher, however.

"We thought he would be able to get everyone's attention and have a good story to tell," Apothekar said. "He's a very well-known business leader and has a very interesting history. He probably has a lot of good advice to share."

GRYP has begun experimenting with other functions as well. The group will host a wine tasting at Bar Divani on Monday, Aug. 2, with monthly breakfast meetings to begin this fall. HYP is beginning a series of after-work social events, the HYP Happy Hour! (H3!) in August. More information on the event or the groups is available at www.gryp.org or www.behyp.org.

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