New MDI business group meets

Posted April 30, 2010, at 10:07 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:44 a.m.

BAR HARBOR, Maine — Networking, civic engagement and maybe enjoying a beer or two.

A group of people who work on Mount Desert Island have decided that these are worthy goals and they want to meet regularly to see whether they can make them happen. But don’t let the name of their group fool you. There is no age limit for those who want to join.

The MDI Young Professionals group held its second monthly meeting Thursday evening at the new location of Leary’s Landing on Mount Desert Street. The main movers behind the group might all be in their 20s, but they insist they are open to everyone.

“If you consider yourself to be a young professional, you can come,” said Jena Young, 28, who owns Side Street Cafe with her husband, Jeff Young. “It’s not so much about age as a state of mind.”

Bar Harbor already has two major business groups, the Chamber of Commerce and the Merchants Association. Organizers of the Young Professionals group say they support the missions of these other organizations, but see their goals as slightly different.

They are not out to market Bar Harbor as a tourist destination, which is a specialty of the Chamber, and they don’t want to overlap with the merchants’ efforts to promote Bar Harbor as a year-round service center.

Erica Brooks, a group organizer and associate real estate broker, said she, Jena Young and some other friends wanted to find a way to get involved and to distinguish themselves at the same time. She said the group is open to anyone who works in the area and wants to make connections in the island’s business and public service communities.

“We want to be in our own creative group,” Brooks said. “It’s definitely a social networking thing. Especially as a young person, it’s overwhelming to think, ‘How will I ever make a difference?’”

About 20 people attended Thursday’s meeting, most of them different people from the 15 or so who attended the March meeting, according to Brooks. Among the topics discussed at Thursday’s meeting were establishing the group as a nonprofit, whether any members who live in Bar Harbor might want to volunteer for the town’s volunteer municipal boards, and environmentally friendly initiatives members could consider pursuing at their jobs.

“We’re the ones that are going to benefit from keeping the island greener down the road,” said Peter Hastings, a group organizer and owner of Leary’s Landing.

Members were reminded that, if they want to stay members, they need to pay annual dues of $10.

Young also said the group should consider scheduling events to help support service organizations, such as a recent fundraiser she held at her cafe for Yele Haiti, a foundation started by Haitian musician Wyclef Jean to support community projects in his home country. Other ideas that were mentioned, without any decision being made, were organizing a trail cleanup or a festival on the Village Green.

Ben Sawyer, a resident and self-employed information technology consultant, said he came to Thursday’s meeting to find out more about the group. He said he just turned 24 and, having grown up on Mount Desert Island, has extensive family in the area.

He said he’s happy to see other young people on MDI who want to establish themselves as contributing members of the local community.

“I want to stay around here,” Sawyer said.

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