Making a case for Cincinnati: C-Change aims to persuade future professionals to settle in Tri-State

Cincinnati is competing with cities throughout the U.S. to attract and retain young professionals. Studies have shown that in today's "knowledge economy," college-educated 25 to 34-year-olds can have a major impact on a city's future prosperity.

With the aim of making a case for Cincinnati, Mayor Mark Mallory and leaders from businesses and community groups will meet dozens of interns and co-ops at a professional development and networking event Tuesday evening at Xavier University.

Organized by young professionals in the C-Change leadership development program of the Cincinnati Regional Chamber of Commerce, the networking event will help young interns see why Cincinnati can be a great place to build a career.

Jule Bernzott manages C-Change as part of the Chamber's HYPE (Harnessing Young Professional Energy) initiative. She believes event will give interns a chance to see for themselves what makes Cincinnati different from other cities. 

"You can make a difference here. And because housing is so affordable, young people can afford to go out on weekends," Bernzott said. "You can have a life outside of your professional life."

Bernzott said young professionals have told her there are two main things that set Cincinnati apart: The ability to make a real difference, and the low cost of living. Compared to larger metropolitan areas, young professionals have incredible access to business and community leaders, she said. 

Getting in CINC

According to C-Change participant and Kroger employee Jeremy Stover, the networking event is part of a Cincinnati Intern Network Connection (CINC) project initiated to help future professionals see they don't have to move to New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago to build successful careers.

Guest networkers will represent organizations such as:

  • 3CDC
  • Accenture
  • Artworks
  • The Brandery
  • Cincinnati City Council
  • dunnhumby
  • Ernst & Young
  • Findlay Market
  • Fusian
  • Johnson Investment Counsel
  • Junior League
  • Keating Muething & Kletkamp
  • MidPoint Music Festival
  • Procter & Gamble
  • Rhinegeist
  • YPCK/Frameshop

During the networking event, each business and community leader will take questions from six to 10 interns at a table for about 10 to 20 minutes. They will then rotate to the next group.

Matt Yung, a C-Change member who works at Johnson Investments, calls it a phenomenal opportunity for college students to meet movers and shakers in Cincinnati. They can pick the brains of corporate executives who have done very well and are proud to call Cincinnati home.

"We want this event to be driven by the curiosity and interests of the interns. For example, if someone is interested in a career in finance, we want them to be able to mingle with someone who works in finance," explained Joseph Christman of Xavier University.

Christman manages the Xavier program that is providing housing to 399 interns from 104 universities, 39 states, and 5 countries. The interns living in Xavier housing are working at 53 companies throughout the Cincinnati area. They represent only a portion of all the interns and co-ops working in Cincinnati this summer.

Christman hopes Tuesday's networking event will help the interns envision where their career paths might take them in 15 or 20 years.

The civic and business leaders taking part in the event can benefit by hearing directly from the interns how Cincinnati is perceived by young people. 

"If we can paint a really positive picture, it will do nothing but ripple out in really positive ways," said Christman. "When students are looking at jobs and where they might like to go after graduation, we want Cincinnati to be on their radar."

Making a case for Cincinnati

Many college graduates don't return to the city in which they interned. And in many cases, interns rarely interact with people outside of the company for which they are interning.

So, the 2013 C-Change participants were asked to devise ways to help Cincinnati attract and keep more young professionals. One C-Change team formed CINC to reach out to interns this summer.

The networking event at Xavier University's Williams College of Business is the third of three events planned by CINC. Its kickoff event June 12 brought 150 interns and co-ops to Great American Ballpark where five young professionals recommended things to do and explained why they chose to live and work in Cincinnati.

At the second event, interns and co-ops met to harvest local crops at The Giving Fields in Northern Kentucky. The Giving Fields benefits the Freestore Foodbank.

Because Xavier University houses so many interns each summer, the campus has been a key supporter of CINC since its inception.

"We have been helping CINC get the word out to interns and sharing some of our connections," Christman said. CINC and Xavier's intern-housing program both provide opportunities for interns to network with one another. Christman pointed out that Interns who sublet apartments throughout the city typically don't get a chance to meet interns from other cities and states who are working at other companies.

The collaboration between Xavier and CINC will culminate in the professional development and networking event Tuesday night.

Seeing C-Change

C-Change is a year-long leadership development program for emerging leaders in the Cincinnati region. While leading meaningful community projects, the participants develop leadership skills and forge new relationships with people outside of their everyday jobs. Applicants must be college graduates under age 40 who who have demonstrated their leadership potential and interest in improving the Cincinnati region.

The C-Change participants who started CINC aren't that much older than the interns they are inviting to their events. Thus, they can relate to the interns' concerns and career questions. Yung says some of the interns have already reached out to him to set up meetings for lunch or coffee.

Encouraging young professionals to establish broader networks can help them feel embedded in the community, explained Bernzott.

"They meet people, make friends, make business contacts, and don't want to leave."

Christman points out that the more contacts interns can make when they are young, the better chance they are going to have for successful careers when they graduate.

The C-Change program is currently in its eighth year and has 56 participants in its 2013 class.

"C-Change has been a wonderful experience," Yung said. "If you want to get plugged in and meet other young people who really care about the city and are trying to move it forward, I encourage you to apply."

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