Future Leaders moving forward with new president, strategies

By JEREMY JOHNSON The Derrick
Staff writer

Matt Caldwell of Oil City has taken over as the new president of the Future Leaders and Entrepreneurs Exchange (FLEX) group. He is pictured here with Susan Williams, director of the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce. (By Jerry Sowden)

The new president of a local young professionals group said the group’s ability to adapt will determine its success in future efforts.

Matt Caldwell of Oil City has taken over as president of the Future Leaders and Entrepreneurs Exchange group, which plans to rethink some of its strategies and rewrite some of its bylaws.

“We’re going to kind of change the way we do business and … officer elections,” Caldwell said. “There wasn’t a solid voting structure, so we’re going to work on writing and putting together those bylaws,” he said.

Caldwell said structure is important in a group where the membership base shifts as members advance in their careers and have families.

“One of the things you have to acknowledge and understand with FLEX is that there will be shifts, people will age out, people get married and things change,” he said. “Just because you were active two years ago doesn’t mean you’ll be as active now.”

With more than 120 members and oversight from the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce, Caldwell said the group’s representation remains strong and focused.

“We want to see it succeed, we have members who want to see it succeed,” Caldwell said.

“The chamber is really behind us and they want to make sure it’s successful, too,” said Caldwell.

One of Caldwell’s first actions as president was to send out a four-question survey to existing and former members of FLEX to find out exactly what kind of information young professionals in the area are seeking, and how it can be best delivered. The survey included questions about meeting times and professional goals.

Caldwell said the group will move forward this year with a three-pronged strategy of networking, leadership development and professional development aimed at helping the region’s young professionals either market their existing businesses or achieve success with those companies where they are currently employed. Caldwell said the group also will “engage employers to take on more young professionals” with their companies.

“I think people will respond better to the young professionals in the area if we can successfully market FLEX and get people to understand it’s not just a title, it’s something we work hard for,” Caldwell said. “We stand for professionalism.

“Our main objective is to focus on promoting young professionals and making sure people realize that while we’re young, that doesn’t mean we’re not qualified,” he added.

Leading by example

Caldwell himself is the quintessential example of a young professional in the area. By day, he’s a salesmen for his father’s printing shop, Caldwell’s Printing Services on West Sixth Street in Oil City.

But Caldwell also is involved in a number of other business and community endeavors in the region. He serves on the Oil City zoning and hearing board and also is an active member of the Oil City arts council, the Oil City Civic Center board and the Oil Heritage Festival committee.

And, just this week, Caldwell was helping put together last-minute details for this weekend’s Bluegrass Festival at the Days Inn in downtown Oil City.

Caldwell said there are many other members of FLEX who give back to the community as much or more than he does.

He said, simply, it’s what they do.

“FLEX is big on giving back to the community,” Caldwell said. “And we’re always looking at more volunteer work and that kind of stuff.”

“It’s going to be a good year for FLEX,” he said. “And it’s going to be a good time, too, because there are a lot of new young professionals.”

For more information on FLEX, people can visit the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce website at http://www.venangochamber.com or go to FLEX’s Facebook page.