If young people can’t find a way to live in the Wood River Valley, Ketchum Councilwoman Courtney Hamilton said, our area can expect to see a significant economic and cultural decline.

“The biggest thing we can do is make our community more welcoming to young professionals. And it starts with some sort of funding,” Hamilton said in a panel discussion at Sun Valley Economic Development’s annual Economic Summit on Oct. 28.

The councilwoman, 28, then offered up a simple suggestion modeled after a Steamboat Springs, Colo., initiative—add a young profes-sionals’ network to Ketchum.

Right away, questions began pouring in from Ketchum Innovation Center affiliates and audience members.

What would group meetings look like? How would the organization cater to those under 40?

These questions will be addressed today, Nov. 6, at the Ketchum Innovation Center in a 5 p.m. callout meeting, which is open to young professionals and anyone who wishes to support them.

“The wants, needs and outcomes should come from you, the under-40 professionals who want to gather and have a larger voice in the community,” wrote Rick Lethbridge, co-owner of the Cellar Pub, in a Facebook post dated Oct. 31.

Lethbridge is just one of several individuals helping organize the event. So far, around two dozen young people have RSVP’d, with many more expressing interest.

“I am really excited to see such an immediate and vast response to the conversation that we started last week,” Hamilton said. “It’s been clear to me for a while that we’ve needed young people to get engaged in local politics, but being one person trying to make that a reality has not been easy. Now, it feels like the whole community—young and old—has gotten behind our generation.”

Hamilton added that because this will be the first time the group will meet, she expects it will take the form of a brainstorming session on how best to move forward.

“Through the grapevine, this has become a vast public meeting with participants across the demographic spectrum of our valley,” she said. “To be honest, I can’t say what kind of structure and role in this community this group will take on, but it all starts with listening, and that’s our plan for Wednesday.”

Hamilton’s main goals for the meeting include establishing a devoted group of leaders to take the organization to the next step and figuring out a cohesive mission statement.

Email the writer: ejones@mtexpress.com

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