Young professional & Fayette visioning
Throughout the Fayette Visioning process that launched in December 2013, there have been frequent references of the importance to attract and retain young professionals living and working in Fayette County. I have had a front row seat for the Fayette Visioning Initiative and have heard open and honest perspectives from both “seasoned” and young professionals.
After spending my early childhood in south Florida, I moved to Fayette County in 2001. I was a graduate of the inaugural class of Whitewater High School in 2007 and then moved to Milledgeville to attend Georgia State College & University where I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology in 2011 and a Masters in Public Administration in 2012.
After college, while most of my friends set their sights on Atlanta to live and work, I turned my attention back to Fayette County for two reasons: To be near family and to be a part of the community in which I grew up.
Even with a master’s degree in my pocket and two very compelling reasons to move “home,” this move would not have happened had it not been for the meaningful internship opportunity I was given with the Fayette Chamber of Commerce.
Throughout that experience I learned how important it is for Fayette County companies to be intentional about recruiting young professionals — either still in college or new graduates — if we desire these students to choose Fayette when they are deciding where to call home.
I’d like to see more businesses offer internships and jobs that provide meaningful work experience, where educated young professionals can grow and develop their skills, as my internship with the Chamber did and as my job does now.
Ironically, even though I am well educated and employed with a great job, I am truly unable to afford to live in Fayette County. The lack of affordable housing options force me, and young professionals like me, to live either in the few high-rent apartment complexes or to look for lower cost housing in neighboring Coweta County.
Nearby Senoia and Sharpsburg offer reasonable housing prices with easy access to Fayette. Young families are forgoing Fayette’s high quality school system in favor of the more reasonably priced homes in Coweta with a school system that is increasingly becoming more competitive with Fayette. And consequently, their tax dollars are staying in Coweta County.
There is great discussion about the type of community that would lure young professionals — restaurants, entertainment venues and shopping. Live. Work. Play. But I assure you that this is not only what will draw those from my generation.
We are looking for a residential and business community where we can value its history, engage, give back, move forward and improve, invest our resources, develop our job skills, raise a family, be mentored and valued. Invest. Contribute. Thrive.
And it is crucial for Fayette County and its leaders to start recruiting and investing in young people early. Because once we start our families the desire to settle is so strong, we will move to the place where we can afford to live and can give us important pieces of community that we value. It is there we will settle.
We are not begging Fayette County to hand us everything we want on a silver platter — we have a strong desire to give back to our community. But I am concerned that without better options, young professionals (Fayette’s sons, daughters and grandchildren) will quietly move and make a life elsewhere.
I see great possibility in Fayette County for me, my colleagues and friends, and my future family. I appreciate this visioning effort that has been so inclusive of the voices of my generation. I want to work with current leaders to create a positive impact on our community that will benefit me and those who come behind me. I know that together we can come up with solutions that will benefit us all.
If there is one thing I know from my work at the Chamber, it is that when young professionals and the “seasoned professionals” of Fayette County come together, powerful things happen. Please join me and make your ideas and suggestions a part of the visioning effort by engaging at http://fayettevision.mindmixer.com.
[Jamie L. Knox is events coordinator for the Fayette Chamber of Commerce in Fayetteville, Ga.]