LINCOLN — State officials want to make Lincoln's Young Professionals Group a model for the rest of the state.

Gov. Pete Ricketts and other officials on Monday announced a new initiative to engage young professionals statewide.

The initiative is a collaboration between the Lincoln and Omaha young professionals groups and the Nebraska Department of Economic Development.

Ricketts said both Lincoln and Omaha have very successful young professionals groups, as do some other cities, such as Norfolk.

"What we want to see is that really spread across the state," he said.

Ricketts said the goal is not only to keep young Nebraskans here but also to attract young people from out of state.

The first step in the statewide effort is the development of Young Nebraskans Week, which is running in concert this week with Lincoln's Young Professionals Week.

Young professionals from all over the state came to Lincoln this week for a couple of days of formal programming, said Jaime Henning, director of communications for the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce.

Among the topics that will be covered are which industry sectors to target to find young professionals and how to raise funds. The attendees also will learn how to host a young professionals week.

Henning said there will be "a little bit of socializing but a lot of learning."

Lincoln's group is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and is hosting its second Young Professionals Week in concert with Startup Week and music festival Lincoln Calling.

Lincoln Chamber of Commerce President Wendy Birdsall said organizers wanted to "take things to the next level" this year and brought in Clint Harp, the carpenter on the HGTV show "Fixer Upper" who also will be starring in his own show "Wood Work" this fall.

Harp joked that he is "neither young nor a professional," but he said his story of quitting his job to become an entrepreneur resonates with both the young and the old.

Harp also said Waco, Texas, where he lives, is starting to see the kinds of things happening that Lincoln is, with young people staying and investing in the community, which is transforming it.


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