TWIN FALLS — When Anja Rodriguez came back to her hometown last year, things had changed.

The recent college graduate found that many of her high school friends were now living outside of Twin Falls. And since most who’d stayed were now married or had children, the dynamics between them had changed.

But it was difficult to branch out into new social groups.

“I was really nervous at first,” said Rodriguez, a 29-year-old attorney at Nicholson Migliuri Rodriguez PLLC.

She wasn’t alone. Eleanor Miller, 24, had moved here from Wisconsin to work for Glanbia Nutritionals, and she was also having a hard time finding other professionals her age — outside of work or the grocery store.

“I didn’t know anyone here,” Miller said.

That’s how the idea for Magic Valley Young Professionals was formed. Still in its infancy, the group aims to connect young career-minded individuals through social, professional and community-oriented events.

“This is just another catalyst to get more involved in the community and see what Twin Falls is all about,” group treasurer Andy Hohwieler said.

Here’s some basic information about the Magic Valley Young Professionals:

Who they are

The group has a broad definition of “young professionals,” Miller said. Although it’s generally tailored toward career-minded people younger than 40, anyone who is “young at heart” and has an interest in professional development is welcome to attend meetings or social gatherings.

So far, the group is a mixed bag of people from the Magic Valley, new recruits and those who, like Rodriguez, came back after a few years.

At its August meeting, the group organized its leadership board, which includes: Vice President Hans Heeling from Adaptive Computing; Secretary Anja Rodriguez from Nicholson Migliuri Rodriguez PLLC; Treasurer Andy Hohwieler from The Scoular Company; and President Eleanor Miller from Glanbia Nutritionals.

What they do

Miller hosted the group’s first event, a bowling night, in April after she received some startup money from the Blue Lakes Twin Falls Rotary Club. The Magic Valley Young Professionals has also done a mini-golf night, a picnic and weekly happy hours on Fridays at local businesses. Participants pay for their own entry fees or refreshments at the events.

“It’s mostly meeting people in areas outside of what you do,” Rodriguez said

The 5:30 p.m. Happy Hour is her favorite part of the group because it’s an informal way to make friends. And sometimes, she said, a group of them will continue the night of fun elsewhere — at another business or at somebody’s house.

Most of Magic Valley Young Professionals’ marketing is done through its Facebook page and word of mouth. But it recently created a website, mvyoungprofessionals.com, which is being updated with events and links to resources.

So far, the group has met only in Twin Falls, but it may extend its reach to other communities as it grows.

The vision

in addition to its leadership board, the group also has chairs for community engagement, social events, marketing and social media.

Miller hopes that new members will take an active role in deciding the group’s future and helping to organize events.

“I wanted it to be what the community wanted,” she said.

In general, the group’s purpose is to foster relationships, build leadership and provide civic engagement for young professionals in the Magic Valley. The board plans to host professional development and community involvement/volunteer events in the future.

Ideally, the members, the community and area businesses will all benefit.

“Attracting and retaining talent in this area is lacking in a very big way,” said Hohwieler, a 28-year-old commodity trader. “We need more culture for our young employees because that’s what they’re looking for.”

Groups such as this, he said, can help deepen employees’ roots in this area when they find value in activities outside of work.

And if businesses help out the group by hosting events such as tours, it can help them spread the word about what they do, he said.

Twin Falls, Hohwieler said, is on the cusp of an identity change as it is diversifying from the agriculture industry. This group would be a venue for new professionals coming into the area.

“What I like about Twin especially is we are growing in such a fast way, and I like to be part of that growth,” he said.

How you can join

The easiest way to keep up with the group’s events is to follow it on Facebook at facebook.com/MVYoungProfessionals. Its website, mvyoungprofessionals.com, is under construction but will soon be updated with a Google calendar.

The group also hosts meetings at 6 p.m. every third Thursday at Cooper Norman, 722 North College Road. New members are welcome to show up and bring their ideas to the table.

For information, email info@mvyoungprofessionals.com.

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