A Vote of Confidence

By
Services for Real Estate Pros with Nobility Partners, LLC

 

Abe in Paper

 

By Bryan Gentry

Published: December 14, 2008

Young Professionals of Central Virginia was trying to serve local businesses by helping to attract or keep young, skilled workers in the Lynchburg area.

In its first several years of existence, however, the group has earned a reputation mainly as a social club.

Abe Loper, the organization’s new executive director hired in October, said that’s not necessarily bad because it shows the group’s ability to bring people together. But the organization has to change in order to secure a skilled work force in the region for years to come, he said.

That’s a challenge he was looking for in his career.

“I wanted to be able to cast (a) vision, and take an organization somewhere where it hasn’t been before,” Loper said.

“What we’re trying to do is take our strong social history and pair that with some good social purposes.”

Other leaders in the organization agree YPCV needs active steering to refine its focus and help it reach more potential members. They think Loper is the man for the helm.

“We don’t want to be just a social organization for young people,” said Christine Kennedy, a member of the YPCV board of directors. “We want to give back. We want to get involved.”

In 2006, the Region 2000 partnership took YPCV under its wing. With the baby boomer generation about to retire, the goal was to help the community compete for the rising generation of workers. Region 2000 helped the group hire a full-time executive director for those efforts.

After just over one year with YPCV, that director, Jamie Quetglez, resigned from her post and took a job with a local company in April.

Loper applied for the executive director’s position in July. He was in Chicago working for a telecommunications company, but he was about to become engaged to a woman who lives in Lynchburg.

Loper, age 30, was one of 29 people who applied for the job, according to the Region 2000 partnership.

The next couple of months were a whirlwind: Loper and his fiancée Emily made wedding plans, he moved to Lynchburg, bought a house, and got married in September. All along he wondered when he’d get a job.

YPCV didn’t call him in for an interview until the week before his wedding. “That was a crazy week,” Loper said. Then he was offered the job while he was returning wedding gifts at Bed Bath & Beyond.

Kennedy said Loper has plugged into the region in his first two months on the job.

Loper “has really reached out to our membership and key stakeholders … to find out what they want to see in the organization,” she said. “That’s something we have needed for a while, since we have not had an executive director.”

Loper said attracting young professionals to Central Virginia doesn’t happen by accident. He compared the region to a business that must reach its target demographic.

One of Loper’s early proposals was to have YPCV co-sponsor “The Affair of the Season,” an event that took place Saturday. It was organized by local developer Oliver Kuttner to celebrate downtown Lynchburg revitalization.

Loper wants to work more with local colleges to encourage graduates to stay in the region. There is room for improvement there: Only 15 percent of all Liberty University alumni live locally. Of recent graduates, about 13 percent from Randolph College and 30 percent from Lynchburg College live in the area now.

Loper wants to undo YPCV’s image as a social club by increasing the number of service and professional development activities until they take place monthly, like the social events.

The social activities will continue. Loper sees them as a way for him to meet and befriend more young professionals, and motivate them to participate in events that help the community.

Kennedy said that is one of Loper’s strong points. With young workers being a tech-savvy generation, it’s easy to use mass e-mails to promote events. But Loper goes beyond that by reaching out to people one-on-one.

“He has the ability to motivate and inspire (people) to serve,” Kennedy said.

“If there’s one thing that I really feel is important, (it’s that) people matter,” Loper said.

“My parents are incredibly hospitable,” said Loper. “They have always taught me that people are worth bending over backwards for.”

Loper went to high school in Bowling Green, Ohio. Money was tight, but he remembers his parents feeding many people who needed a meal.

When he attended Albion College in Michigan, Loper joined Campus Crusade for Christ. He worked for that nonprofit for five years after he graduated. Then he took a spin in the commercial world, in real estate, then information technology.

Coming to YPCV was a move back to what he enjoys: trying to make a positive difference.

“I like being able to change people’s perspectives, to change people’s lives for the better,” he said. “If I can do that while I work, I’m happy.”

Comments (1)

Debbie Malone
Londeree's Real Estate & Property Management - Lynchburg, VA
From Lynchburg To The Lake (434) 546-0369

Hi Abe, Welcome to Lynchburg! Nice write up in the News and Advance, I didn't realize that was you. It's true, very tough keeping the young professionals in town. Any suggestions? My daughter graduates from VT in May and she's looking toward Boston and Atlanta.

Jan 27, 2009 06:27 AM