‘FLOW’ – the ‘Future Leaders of West Hartford’ – is an offshoot of the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce and will provide networking and educational opportunities for young professionals.
By Ronni Newton
A new organization has just been launched in West Hartford focused on the needs of younger people – Millennials and Gen X-ers – who live and work in the community.
On Monday, more than 30 people gathered for a lunch meeting at Town Hall and voted on “FLOW” as the name of the new group of young professionals. FLOW, which stands for “Future Leaders of West Hartford,” is an offshoot of the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce
FLOW was organized and is being led by Ryan Keating, a licensed insurance professional at the Keating Agency. Keating grew up in West Hartford, but he went away to college in Tampa Bay and then lived and worked in San Francisco, San Diego, and Dallas. After being away from West Hartford for nearly a decade, he returned to join his family insurance agency in 2016.
Keating is 29, and everyone else in his office is much older. Many of his high school friends have left the area, and he was looking to connect with other young professionals.
Keating immersed himself in West Hartford’s business community right away, becoming an active participant in Chamber of Commerce events. He said that in August and September he began talking to Chamber Executive Director Barbara Lerner and Associate Director Morgan Hilyard about a way to engage other people in his demographic.
The first planning meeting of those interested in forming a young professionals group was held in December with about 10 people, and just over 20 attended the second meeting. On Monday, more than 30 attended a meeting to share ideas and goals for the group, and to select its name.
“The name says it all. We are more than a young professional group,” said Keating. “We are creating a forum that anyone can be a part of – from looking to get involved with non-profits in the area, or starting a new career and needing some guidance, to someone that has just moved to West Hartford and does not have a circle of friends.”
The group is targeting people between 21-40, but Keating said that FLOW is not age-restricted. Several of those who attended Monday were more “seasoned.”
Hilyard said that when she and Lerner were first hired more than two years ago they saw an immediate need for a niche young professionals group.
Hilyard herself fits the targeted demographic, and said she has met many at Chamber events who expressed interest in a group like FLOW at this stage of their lives and careers. “We wanted to be able to make the Chamber more relatable to young professionals,” Hilyard said.
“As their careers develop, we want to be able to provide them with the opportunities, within the Chamber and through other connections they’ve made, to want to stay in West Hartford,” said Hilyard.
“It has been great to see such a wide variety of engaged people during the brainstorming phase and the potential for what the group will become is very exciting,” Keating said.
FLOW will have its first official social event on Thursday, Feb. 9, from 5-7:30 p.m., at Noble & Co. at 43 LaSalle Rd. in West Hartford Center. Registration on the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce’s website is required, but there is no charge to attend and all registrants will receive one free drink coupon. Noble & Co. owner Mike Ladden has generously donated food for the event, and will offer $5 craft cocktails and $3 beers as well.
Keating said that future events will be a mix of social and educational opportunities, as well as community service. Some of the ideas include an event at the Delamar West Hartford Hotel when it opens in the spring, as well as a golf event in the spring/summer.
Keating would also like to invite some of West Hartford’s successful restaurateurs to a panel discussion, and thinks that would be of interest to the membership. He would also love to see some of the restaurateurs become members.
There is currently no charge to join FLOW, and membership in the West Hartford Chamber is also not required. There are eventual plans to charge $50 for FLOW membership, and a discounted rate of $25 for Chamber members.
Registration for the Noble & Co. event is now available by clicking here. A tab on the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce website is being set up for FLOW, and a Facebook page is being developed as well.
A FLOW member will also become a non-voting member of the Chamber’s Board of Directors, Hilyard said.
Keating is excited about branding FLOW in the community and about what the group will be able to achieve and the impact it can have. “West Hartford is such an amazing place and there are endless possibilities for events and community involvement,” Keating said.
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