AJ Ferguson started his new role as Updyaton Executive Director this week. His role is to ignite and lead this young professional organization on their mission of spurring economic growth in the Dayton region by attracting and retaining young talent. The group’s signature event is the annual UpDayton Summit, which gathers over 300 hundred Dayton area residents to share and vote on ideas to make Dayton a better place to live, work and play.
“When I attended my first UpDayton Summit in 2012, I was overwhelmingly inspired by the enthusiasm and creativity in the room. It was this experience at the Summit that pulled me into an UpDayton project, into moving downtown, and ultimately into applying for the director position” – says AJ.
AJ grew up in the Dayton area and has a strong background of involvement and leadership in the region. He graduated from the University of Dayton with a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering (2012) and a Master’s in Renewable and Clean Energy (2013). His passion for improving the region stems from his experiences in the University of Dayton’s Rivers Institute and Fitz Center for Leadership in Community.
“The story of Dayton’s revival is getting exciting and I, like all those involved with UpDayton, want to be part of it. I cannot wait to get started,” said Ferguson.
Ferguson’s previous professional experience includes internships with the UD Rivers Institute, Sustainable Pittsburgh, and the Dayton Regional Green initiative. He most recently worked as the chief operating officer at a local start-up company called Dropoly.
We asked AJ to answer some questions for us:
Describe the Dayton region with 3 words:
Inspiring untapped potential
If you were showing prospective newcomers to Dayton – what 3 places would you take them to?
2nd Street Market, any local brewery, kayaking on the Mad River into downtown
I’d never have to leave Dayton if it had ….
all my friends who live in other cities and states
The thing the “powers that be” don’t realize about young professionals is…
We want places and employers that share our values, especially our desire for work-life balance.
What I hope to accomplish during my time at Updayton….
I think the watershed moment for young Daytonians is still ahead. We want young adults to be engaged and thriving in the Dayton region to the point that young people everywhere are curious about what’s happening in Dayton, Ohio. When Dayton is making lists of millennial-friendly cities and regions, we’ll know we’re getting there.
I still have much to learn from the board and past leaders of the organization before championing a particular direction, but some themes have emerged so far:
– The UpDayton board and core volunteers are incredibly committed and put tons of time into UpDayton’s mission. We accomplish more than a typical organization of our size because of them. So, goal one is to keep such a good thing going and growing.
– We’d like to get the organization to the next level in order to grow our impact and become a more powerful force for attracting and retaining young talent. For this purpose, we hope to grow our organization’s capacity and resources. We’ll do this through increased fundraising as well as creative programs that generate revenue for the organization while simultaneously advancing our mission.
– Last year UpDayton launched its Catalyst Program with the support of Montgomery County. The programs three focus areas are creating leadership opportunities for young people, connecting with college campuses and engaging new hires at local employers. A major goal for the organization will be refining and growing this program in the coming years. Human Resources teams at area employers are on the front lines of the talent retention and attraction conversation. I’m particularly interested in how we can continue to support them with our expertise in demonstrating why young adults love this region.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I’d like to express my gratitude for Laura Estandia’s work while in the position and her continued support through the transition. She did an incredible job advancing the organization in her time as director and will continue to be a leader for the organization.
And I’d like to invite everyone to join us for our Summit:
Pitch your ideas to make Dayton more vibrant at the annual UpDayton Summit, 2-6 pm Friday, April 10, at the Dayton Art Institute. Meet young professionals, government officials, community leaders, and other people invested in brightening the shine on the Gem City! You can register online now.