I read a recent blog post by LIBN Editor Andrea Jones titled “Old Problems Require New Blood” with great interest. Jones was opining that Long Island needs fresh new ideas to tackle long systemic problems facing our region such as affordable housing, rising taxes, transportation and infrastructure as well as the economy.
Last year, I wrote a column titled “Memo to the Power Brokers” that talked to the importance of bringing Long Island’s young professionals to the table.
I have been involved in the Long Island political/business arena since I was 20 years old. It was a challenge to find people willing to listen to new ideas. Fortunately, I was able to find some great people that gave me a shot. However, on the whole there are difficulties we all face as a young people trying to make it on Long Island. There really isn’t a professional mentor program out there to help aspiring people in their 20s and 30s. Sadly, if we don’t help these folks there may not be many left when our leaders retire in the coming years.
On one occasion, I had the opportunity to be a fly on the wall as leaders discussed how to solve the affordable housing crisis on Long Island. What struck me most was the lack of youth in the room. There may have been one or two taking notes, but no one with a full set of hair was invited to speak. Suffice to say, the meeting ended with no solution because the demographic most impacted was not given a voice. This is a problem not just on Long Island, but I would suspect in many areas and industries.
The real issue at play is that after a long period of time people get tired and they get comfortable with the status quo. That’s not to say that there are not good ideas brought forward from the power brokers. However, there is a younger generation that is hungry and ready to step up the plate and take a few swings.
I commend LIBN and its efforts to empower the younger generation. This blog was a great first step. As many of you read each week, there are personal stories of hard working professionals sharing their experiences and trying to make it in this region. The ultimate goal of this little experiment is to reach a demographic that many talk about, but few seek. I agree with Jones’ commentary and can only hope that there are others out there who have ideas and want to be heard. Perhaps if enough of us stand up in the room, someone might turn around and call on us to speak.
Here is a short list of some young people who have made a big difference in the world:
- Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, Inc., started Apple at 16 years old.
- Mark Zuckerberg, founded Facebook at 21 while attending Harvard. Last week his little company went public and earned him a net worth of $20 billion.
- Larry Page and Sergey Brin, founded Google in their early 20s while attending Stanford University.
- Andrew Mason, 29 founded Groupon, which went public last year.
- Stacey Bendet, 32 founded Alice + Olivia a famous clothing line generating over $50 million annually.