The PEAK connection: New group bringing young professionals together

Marci Gore • Feb 17, 2014 at 8:44 AM

Seth Jervis, a 29-year-old real estate agent who works for Century 21 Legacy, says he, along with some colleagues, realized Kingsport lacked an organization that would help the young professionals in the area connect to one another.

“We had noticed things were quite cliquish,” Jervis said. “We saw Eastman hanging out with Eastman and Domtar with Domtar and Wellmont with Wellmont. But we didn’t have that one group to unite the masses, so to speak. It’s a misconception that there are not young professionals here in Kingsport. It’s just that they’re in Johnson City or on State Street in Bristol because that’s where, because of the colleges, things are going on. We’re wanting to debunk that myth that there aren’t young professionals here. We want to, number one, prove that they’re here, and, number two, get them together.”

So, last October, Jervis and some others met to discuss how to create a cohesive organization that would be geared toward Kingsport’s young professionals.

“We assembled a board and what we tried to do was pull somebody from the heavy hitters in Kingsport — be that business, non-profit, city. We tried to pull board members from Eastman, Wellmont and the city [of Kingsport]. We really tried to be as broad as we possibly could in selecting that group. We sat down and we really outlined what we wanted the organization to be. We met for about five hours. We outlined our mission. We outlined our vision and we outlined the ‘meat’ of the organization.”

As a result of the meeting, Professionals Engaged in Advancing Kingsport (PEAK) was born.

“The first thing that we did was say, ‘We’ve got to build a constituency here to get the word out.’ As a board, we each selected three people that we knew were well-connected and well-networked, not only with the Kingsport community, but the surrounding area as well,” Jervis said. “We had our first event in November at Rob Beverly’s Star Trails studio. I guess the word sort of leaked out, and we had a few more than 30 people there. Our next event was at Hibbert-Davis. We had 60-some people. Our last event was at Stir Fry, and we had to stop taking count at the door because the line was packed 15 people deep out the door. We ended up with well over 100 people at that event. We’ve actually doubled every time we’ve held an event.”

And, Jervis adds, the interest generated by PEAK’s first events has all been done “organically.”

“We’ve not advertised it. We’ve not pushed it. It’s really just been a matter of us inviting some of our friends and word spreading like wildfire. And I think this only reinforces the need for an organization like this. People have really been craving something like this,” he said. “Anyone can go out and send a blast out to every Facebook friend they have to ‘Like’ this group, but what true measure of growth is that?”

Because Kingsport’s median age is higher that some of its sister cities, Jervis says PEAK is geared to those between the ages of “21 and 40-ish.”

“If there’s someone who’s really gung-ho about becoming a part of this organization and really wants to volunteer and grow socially and professionally, we’re not going to prevent them from doing so,” Jervis said.

Jervis says the mission of PEAK, which falls under the umbrella of the Downtown Kingsport Association, is to attract, develop and retain Kingsport’s young professionals and that everything the organization does revolves around five core components.

Those components are:

• Social engagements — PEAK’s social engagement platform will serve as an opportunity for members to network, both personally and professionally, with fellow PEAK constituents, as well as unwind from the rigors of the workweek.

• Civic volunteerism — The focal point of this component will be the continual improvement and growth of Kingsport through volunteer efforts. Jervis explains that PEAK’s members live and/or work here and, therefore, have an innate responsibility to serve in some capacity as stewards to the Kingsport community.

• Professional development — Jervis says PEAK is comprised of a diversely talented constituency, however, there is always room for improvement. Through guest speakers and in-house training the aim of this component is professional growth.

• Regional networking — Engaging other young professional organizations throughout the region will allow PEAK, as well as individual members, to establish symbiotic relationships with like-minded groups.

• Talent recognition — PEAK’s talent recognition initiative serves as an internal headhunting group geared toward assisting with job vacancies brought forward from local business and industry.

“We are going to be that highly concentrated, talented, educated group of individuals. There are a lot of organizations, businesses and non-profits in the city with job openings, and they’re coming to us with those vacancies,” Jervis said. “If we can fill those with members of our constituency, that’s only going to improve us, the employers and the city as a whole. That’s job growth right there.”

PEAK will hold its first membership drive during a semi-formal cocktail party from 7 to 10 p.m., Feb. 28 at the BANQ building in downtown Kingsport. Those interested in attending should RSVP by Feb. 20 by emailing info@ypkingsport.com. The cost of a one-year PEAK membership is $50.

On March 1, PEAK members will participate in the organization’s first civic volunteerism event from 9 a.m. to noon at Second Harvest Food Bank.

“Our philosophy is, if we’re going to play, we’re going to work also. We live here, so let’s get out and do our part and let’s improve our city and our quality of life and ourselves,” Jervis said.

To find out more about PEAK, visit http://www.ypkingsport.com/ or visit the organization’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ypkingsport.

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