Young Professionals of Central Virginia Empowers and Connects

Photos courtesy of Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance

You might have heard it from Whitney Houston or a motivational speaker in elementary school that “children are the future.” The fact is, now those previously referred to children are the present workforce with hopes to innovate, impact, and reinvigorate local communities.

This generation’s labor force values different things in their professional life than the previous generations. Priorities such as work-life balance, cultural impact of their work, and feeling emotionally connected to their work are a few examples of what millennials and following generations prize, according to a Gallup report.

Fortunately, the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance hosts a program called the Young Professionals of Central Virginia. At its core, YPCV is a way for young professionals to find community in and network with other young people that want to make a mark in their industries.

“YPCV is designed to inspire, influence, and connect young professionals in our region, which acts as a springboard into job growth, community engagement, and ownership,” Megan Lucas CEO and Chief Economic Development Officer for LRBA said.

According to Lucas, the program hosts more than 400 members in just about every industry in the area, “from muffins to manufacturing.”

As a college town, Lynchburg is poised to capitalize on the vigor and innovation of its uniquely large population of career-seeking grads. However, “young professional” is more than just a buzz phrase to YPCV.

Rachael Smith, a business reporter for The News and Advance, also serves on the board of YPCV as its Vice Chair. Smith says the term “young professional” has evolved as she’s advanced in age and career.

“In my early twenties, right out of college, I just felt young and inexperienced in the real, working world. Coming to YPCV was a time to have fun at area venues and restaurants and a way to make new friends,” she said.

Smith joined YPCV in 2013 after graduating college as a way to find a sense of community in the area.

“Now, at 31, I feel so much more embedded in the business community and enjoy making connections with leaders in our community as well as professionals in every sector of the city,” she continued.

While age is not the sole determining factor for a person’s success in a given industry, it will likely be encouraging to aspiring young professionals to see that YPCV’s committee is made up of their peers—young, local professionals seeking to impact the community.

young professionals of virginia

Gary Garner III serves as the YPCV Committee Chair, but he also works in his family’s business, Gary’s Garden Center, in hands-on and administrative capacities.

The youth and active participation of the committee likely contributes to how YPCV plans networking events. Rather than generic, business-focused seminars, YPCV holds monthly YP Connect mixers at local bars and restaurants like No. 7 Rooftop Bar and Mellow Mushroom, every second Thursday of the month.

While networking is the focus, the young professionals can loosen their collars and commune with like-minded peers, all while the venue receives a boon in sales, further demonstrating the value of youth in business.

“There have been numerous opportunities to develop and grow professional and leadership skills. Given the diverse professional backgrounds of the young professionals, YP Connect events offer an excellent chance to expand your network,” Garner said.

YPCV also offers more standard professional events such as career fairs, annual summits, and quarterly professional development sessions. The annual Level Up YP Summit is a day-long event that hosts motivational speakers, seminars, and additional networking opportunities, according to Lucas.

This year’s summit will be held on November 15 at the University of Lynchburg.

“Being a member of YPCV has been a good exercise in getting out of your comfort zone, practicing communication skills, meeting new people, and being able to either collaborate with folks professionally or simply making a new friend,” Smith said.

Aside from the networking potential for members of the program, employers indirectly benefit from the free marketing their business receives when an employee attends an event and shares their experiences.

“One of the more common success stories of YPCV is the retention of talent to the Lynchburg region. There have been numerous instances of young professionals obtaining jobs thanks to connections developed through YPCV,” Garner said.

YPCV’s website claims that “employees are two to three times more likely to stay in a community if they are engaged.”

The potential increase in employee retention that YPCV provides helps to curb the previous Gallup report’s assertion that millennials are much more likely to “job-hop” than workers from previous generations.

Joining YPCV is a fairly simple process. Perhaps in the spirit of openness to anyone eager and passionate enough to share their ideas and profession, YPCV does not put any strict definition of what it means to be “young” or a “professional.”

Applying for membership to YPCV is free. To apply, you can visit