PORT ANGELES — Linty Hopie spends her life dealing in connections.
In her job as entrepreneurship coordinator for Peninsula College’s Entrepreneur Institute, she connects fledgling business owners to resources to help them grow.
In her other job as director of student development, she spends much of her time connecting students who have been in the work force and for one reason or another need retraining and so are returning to school.
Even her personal life is based on the importance of connections.
20 years later
After spending a nearly 20-year hiatus from living in Port Angeles, Hopie, 38, and her dad returned to be close to their extended family and reconnect with the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe, of which both are members.
Somewhere in the middle of personal and professional endeavors is Hopie’s Peninsula Young Professionals Network, which she helped start last summer.
The group is intended to give young professionals a place to meet, connect, network and garner resources form the community.
Hopie was born and raised in Port Angeles, but at 16, her family picked up and moved to Bend, Ore., and she spent about 20 years in our state’s neighbor to the south.
“About two years ago, it was a point in my life that I was at a crossroads, and I chose to return to be with my family and help them with whatever needs they might have,” Hopie said.
Her father, Bill, lives with her, maintaining their close relationship.
“My father has been my partner in crime for over 13 years now and is my biggest supporter and teacher,” Hopie said.
“He has enabled the wonderful opportunities that I have had in my life in every way.
“It was really important for him and for me to return to our culture.
“I was living in Eugene, Ore., and it was a great place for me professionally — I was working at the United Way of Lane County with many of their community initiatives and community services.
“But I just didn’t have my familial connections there.”
But when she started searching for a job in Port Angeles, she wasn’t looking for just anything.
“It was really important to me to find an organization or institution that matched some of my values and was parallel to the work I was already doing,” she said.
“I looked for over a year and really intensely for about nine months, and Peninsula College was one of the main organizations that I was monitoring.
“When the entrepreneurship position came open, it was consistent with that as a public partnership and collaboration with the community.”
Her job includes finding and booking teachers for the Entrepreneur Institute’s classes.
“The most important thing is that these people are entrepreneurs themselves and that they have a significant knowledge base in the area that they are teaching,” she said.
“But as real business owners, they have real successes and real failures that they can pull from.”
It was through her job that she first saw the need for the networking group she created with the help of Brian Kuh, another young professional in the area.
“It was then, during my journey to reimmerse myself in the community that I saw the unique challenges we had,” she said.
“I discovered, personally, that even though I was born and raised here — and I really was embraced and welcomed back — I found it hard to connect with people my age.
“There didn’t even seem to be social gatherings or organizational gatherings.
“Anywhere I went if I looked out into the crowd, I didn’t see the younger folks.”
She also started talking to civic and community leaders about young business people.
“I heard from community leaders that the ‘flight issue’ was a problem — where young professionals are brought to the area and just don’t stay,” she said.
“They might love their profession and job, but they just don’t find those connections to the community.
“And then the ‘trailing spouse’ issue was a problem too, where a young married couple will move for one of their jobs, and the other just doesn’t have the resources or the network to find a job they are qualified for.
“I heard this over and over from community leaders and those leading large firms.”
The group kicked off last July and now meets about once monthly for networking gatherings.
“I heard and understood all those issues — and I’m built to solve problems,” she said.
Because managing a mailing list for such a networking group can be another job in itself — and she already had two real jobs — she and Kuh settled on the idea of having the group communicate primarily via Facebook.
The group can be found at http://tinyurl.com/2e3rlgt.
It started with 10 members and currently has 208.
She and the core beginning group started by coming up with a mission which now states: “The Peninsula Young Professionals Network (PYPN) is committed to providing young professionals and emerging leaders the opportunity to enhance local personal and professional development that will ultimately create a stronger, more vibrant community.”
“It was really important to us to have a vision and a mission,” Hopie said.
“We didn’t want to be some random social group or to be cast as a dating service.
“We wanted to have some joint purpose.”
To allow others to take a stronger leadership role, Hopie’s co-chair position will go to Katherin Teefy this year.
“That is the great thing about this group — it allows others like Katie to take on a leadership role and grow in that way,” Hopie said.
Although she has been very aggressive in her professional and even some of her personal life, Hopie said that she is taking an easier course when it comes to reconnecting to her culture with the Lower Elwha tribe.
As part of her mission to reconnect, she said she hopes to start to learn how to do some traditional basket weaving, among other connections with the elders of her tribe.
“It is something that I’m allowing to happen naturally,” she said.
“I was gone for two decades, and a lot of things have changed since then.
“When I left there were no canoe journeys, Tse-whit-zen hadn’t yet happened.
“A lot of really incredible things and some really painful things have happened that I was not present for.
“These were challenging occurrences, so although I’m very close to my culture and to my family, I don’t proclaim to be an expert in what my tribe as gone through.