by Joe Sylvester
The Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce wants to draw more young professionals to the region and keep them here.
Who better to help do that than young professionals?
And to find those young up-and-comers, the chamber’s Young Professionals group is doing just that. The group of business leaders under the age of 40 is determined to build relationships with young professionals in the Scranton area and retain them by giving them a voice in the region and its future. Leading the group’s charge are its 2019-2020 co-chairs who were named in August, Kat Sokirka and Mike Magistro.
Sokirka, 23, originally is from Wyoming, Luzerne County, but now lives in Old Forge. She is special events and social media manager for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders – the Triple-A affiliate of the New York Yankees. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Bucknell University in Lewisburg in markets, innovation and design.
Magistro, 25, originally of Greenfield Township and now of Scranton, is marketing manager for The Slocum Firm, P.C., a law firm based in downtown Scranton that specializes in personal injury, workers’ compensation, business formation and cannabis consulting. He holds dual bachelor’s degrees in Spanish and Chinese as well as an MBA from Marywood University and was recently a finalist in the annual TecBridge Business Plan competition.
“We kind of just started up the group last year,” said Sorkirka. “We did a launch party.”
She said the group is striving to draw young professionals from the region to keep them in the area, whether they were born and raised in Northeast Pennsylvania or came here to work.
The group’s mission dovetails with the chamber’s goal of boosting local businesses to create more jobs.
“Networking is a big part of any professional job,” Sorkirka said.
She said the group held a huge launch last year that drew more than 80 professionals.
“They were really excited about the escape room,” she said. “This year, we’re hoping to start off with business crawl,” Sorkirka said.
For $20, participants can go to four different restaurant-bars.
“If you’re within the first 40, you get a T-shirt. We’re asking for sponsors for the back of the shirt. We also want a fun environment for these young professionals. Not just shirt and tie and blazer, not just coming to work 9 to 5. It’s about making connections.”
The group is for people under 40 who are working full-time, but it’s also for anyone young at heart.
“Obviously, the Young Professionals is just a portion of the benefits from the chamber,” she added. “We encourage people to be a member of the chamber or work for a company that is.”
Magistro said the Young Professionals group is not necessarily membership-based but is comprised of a committee that organizes the events. He said events draw anywhere from 20-80 people, depending on the event.
“We do a bunch of different things,” he said, citing the launch party, the upcoming business crawl and the escape room.
“About 20 people showed up for the escape room,” Magistro said. “It’s typical for six people to show.”
The business crawl is planned for Oct. 18, a Friday. It starts around 5:30 p.m.
Magistro said the group also is beginning work on a December charity fundraiser.
He said the events are not only fun and exciting but also self-rewarding, especially when listening to speakers.
Magistro wants to promote the Scranton area because he likes it here.
“I moved to New York for a while and came back because I missed the Scranton area,” he said. “I decided to go for my MBA.”
Mari Potis, the chamber’s director of membership and events, said she has been with the chamber for 21 years, and the one piece that’s been missing was a program for young professionals to do business card exchanges.
She and vice president, Kristine Augustine, conducted a lot of research. The criteria they put on it included the group was for ages 21 to 40, or older, “If they’re young at heart.”
Potis said state Rep. Kyle Mullins, who is in his 30s, spoke at one gathering.
She said the group’s focus is professional development, social development and community advancement. “We’re going to get more into the philanthropic side this year,” Potis said. “There will be more of an opportunity for speakers.”
She said the group wants to make sure young professionals have voice in the community, in business and in their future.