sm-connect-logoEmerging business professionals will soon have a local platform for networking, collaboration and skill-building. The Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce is partnering with local young professionals to launch Santa Maria Connect!, SMVCC’s emerging professionals network.

“Santa Maria’s local economy is growing and attracting new professionals who are either returning to town or moving here to start their careers,” explained Glenn Morris, President/CEO of the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce. “ As we meet more of these individuals, it is important that we create ways for them to connect and engage with their peers and with the broader community.”

Santa Maria Connect! will provide a forum for young professionals in Santa Maria to create professional networks and access professional development opportunities, and act as a catalyst for young professionals to support each other in creating expanded business opportunities.

Morris says the creation of Santa Maria Connect! is one of the ways the Chamber can contribute to creating a local vibrant economy.

“Identifying emerging executives and helping them to create strong networks and enhance their skills and experiences are important strategies in ensuring a long-term economic base for our community,” he said.

Partnering with local young professionals, the Chamber of Commerce has spent the past few months determining how Santa Maria Connect! should function. The group will initially meet once a month with a format that includes a happy hour/mixer, speaker/professional development, and open discussion.

“These meetings have a little bit for everyone,” said Alex Magana, Events and Special Projects Manager at the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce. “The goal is to have our professionals walk out with a little more knowledge and direction than when they walked into our meeting. You get to network with like-minded individuals, you get to develop professionally through speakers and workshops and you get to ask one on one questions all in one meeting.  It’s convenient and beneficial. You don’t get that from other groups in town that are tailored to the young professional.”

Jose Huitron, Career Services Manager at SBB College, says that Santa Maria Connect!’s focus on young professionals and actual professional development opportunities makes it different than similar existing organizations. “It’s a group with a purpose of not just coming together to socialize, but to foster connection and community growth,” Huitron said.

Morris said the goal of the group is to offer both networking and professional development opportunities for emerging professionals in Santa Maria.

“Individuals participating in the Santa Maria Connect! forums can expect to learn something they can use in their career, meet new people they can network and collaborate with, and connect to a broader community that can help them thrive!,” Morris said.

With the local economy continuing to grow, there is perhaps and even stronger need now for a group like Santa Maria Connect!.

“Our young professionals will be our future business owners and community leaders so we need to give them a forum to build themselves up and gain real life knowledge for when they do start that business or take on a community leader position in our city,” Magana said.  “They need to be connected. This resource is vital for the future of our economy and our city.”

All are invited to attend the launch of Santa Maria Connect!, happening January 17 at 5:30pm at Far Western Tavern. The guest speaker will be Dan Pankratz Co-Founder of Exchange Collective. Learn more and RSVP at

“Santa Maria Connect! is a fantastic way to not only connect with other young professionals in the community but also to learn from each other,” said Dominique Rondeau, independent consultant with Arbonne.

Huitron agrees.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to be part of the next generation of leadership in the Santa Maria Valley.”

For more information about Santa Maria Connect! and to learn how you can get involved, visit their Facebook page. Or, contact Alex Magana, Events and Special Projects Manager at the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce at (805) 925-2403 x 814 or