Sacramento Edge group wants to make a difference

We wanted to share a great profile article the Sacramento Bee just ran on Metro EDGE. To read the article at go here.

Sacramento Edge group wants to make a difference

Published Sunday, May. 23, 2010

They blog and tweet. They think clean and green. They volunteer knowing that building community is as important as growing a company.

And they may be the future of Sacramento business – and Sacramento itself.

They're the members of Metro Edge, the 8-month-old program of the Sacramento Metro Chamber, more than 400 professionals age 40 and under whose goal is no less than to reshape Sacramento and thrust it into the national spotlight.

It's even the group's vision statement for 2010: "The Sacramento Region is a National Destination."

Autumn Heacox, Metro Edge's 2009-2010 chairwoman, sees Sacramento as a city on the verge and said her group wants to be a part of its transformation.

"Sacramento wants to be something, but it doesn't know what that is," she said. "We can help Sacramento develop its true identity."

They're trying in a variety of ways, promoting regional growth and throwing a spotlight on the region's emerging clean technology sector and young entrepreneurs.

But also through volunteer "power hours" with Hands-On Sacramento, Soil Born Farms and other area nonprofit groups, and through mentoring budding leaders at California State University, Sacramento.

"These are people who care and are passionate about Sacramento and the region," Heacox said. "They want to live here, raise their families here and make it a place that people 40 and under want to make a destination."

The group started small in late 2008 with a meeting in an empty office of midtown's MARRS building, Heacox recalled. Members were plucked from the chamber's Leadership Sacramento program and others active in the region.

"They asked us to attend and if we thought it was a good idea," Heacox said. "We said, 'Where do we sign?' "

Dion Dwyer, a Metro Chamber vice president for membership services, said Metro Edge was also born out of an unmet need for a young professionals group in Sacramento. Business networking groups abound, but Dwyer said he believes the chamber's program is different.

"Metro Edge is teaching them how to make contacts and how to make a difference. We didn't see a club like that," he said. "We wanted to see them professionally developing themselves."

Today, the group is tapping into a reservoir of young talent from the corporate and nonprofit arenas, small businesses and the arts who want to be involved in shaping their community.

And, they're grooming the next generation of community leaders in the process.

"They want to bring creative thought to the table. They want to know, 'How do I get into a leadership role?' They're looking for volunteer opportunities," said Susan Harris, a vice president of the 2,200-member Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. "They want to become engaged in the community and they want to make connections that will open up stepping stones."

Those connections have become more important in today's economy, Dwyer said.

"I think young professionals are at the edge of a cliff of an economy they hadn't seen in the past, so there's a need to make a contact beyond the contacts they have," Dwyer said. "There's a power in the diversity of groups, and life is like business. It's about the connections we make."

Tapping into that pent-up demand has been a membership bonanza for the fledgling Metro Edge, which has boosted its rolls to more than 400 in eight months' time, with a goal to double its numbers by the fall.

Membership in Metro Edge is separate from the parent Metro Chamber, but employees who work for Metro Chamber member companies pay a discounted rate of $100 per year to join the young professionals group.

Non-Metro Chamber members pay a slightly higher rate of $125 per year. Students pay $50 a year.

"The group has grown very organically and it's stronger because of it," said Randy Sater, the Metro Chamber's volunteer chairman and president of Sacramento-based Stonebridge Properties LLC. "They're very mission-focused, very involved in a volunteer way. It's a fun organization, but with a purpose."

Social media have been a big part of Metro Edge's membership push, the group drawing fans and posting events on Facebook; tweeting to spread the word on Twitter and networking via LinkedIn.

But old-fashioned word-of-mouth and networking have helped, too. Drexel University, a founding sponsor, funneled its business students into the new group; and others found ways to become involved.

"We're offering a broad enough range of opportunities that we can continue to grow membership," Harris said. "It speaks volumes. There's a whole generation that wants to get involved."

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