Voices heard

JAMESTOWN – Chautauqua County millennials want professional, well-paying jobs and an increase in downtown development of the county’s two major cities.

Those were two of many conclusions reached Thursday night at “Millennials Thrive,” an event hosted by Chautauqua Works and the Gebbie Foundation at Shawbuck’s on Second Street in Jamestown.

Millennials, those born between 1985-2004, make up 30 percent of the population in Chautauqua County, according to the Health Department.

“We are trying to ensure that in Chautauqua County, we get the perspectives of everybody and frame goals, objectives and policies with the whole community in mind,” said County Executive Vince Horrigan.

“This is an opportunity to focus on our millennial generation and all of these millennial minds are going to be a key of my ‘Jumpstart’ initiative.”

Horrigan unveiled “Jumpstart” earlier this year, with three focus areas of improvement, including efficiency in service delivery, a healthier environment for residents and his main focus workforce development.

The event was appropriate for the cause, seeing as how it was organized by eight interns working in conjunction with the Chautauqua Advancement Project.

Katie Geise, executive director for the Workforce Investment Board, explained that the advancement project is funded by a grant from the Gebbie Foundation. The program matches college graduates with internship opportunities at employers with the goal of advancement in similar careers.

“It’s one of the only programs I know of statewide where money is being put into a program to help out young professionals and connect them with local employers to ultimately find jobs in their fields,” Geise said.

As director of the Chautauqua Advancement Project, Geise reached out to Horrigan for support of the group’s final project, which was suitable for the Jumpstart initiative in researching what local millennials want.

A group of 30 from ages 21-30 attended the event and were further split into four different groups where they were asked a series of questions about what they would like to see happen in Chautauqua County.

Responses included an increase in efficiency, transparency and additional services provided by the county; small business support, tax breaks and awareness; private and public partnerships; diverse opportunities; a bridging of gaps between existing and new generations; and loan forgiveness in exchange for public service.

“Clearly, jobs are on everybody’s minds and it’s something we are working on every single day,” Horrigan said. “You all have things in front of you passions and interests. You need to set goals and stick with them. That’s what I’m going to do in the next three-and-a-half years.”