Brennen Parker says he loves Amsterdam.
Parker, 30, moved to the city from Clifton Park three years ago. He said the largest problem facing Amsterdam and the rest of Montgomery County is its image.
“There are a lot of downers in Montgomery County. I think we have to change that perception, and we have to first start by changing the perception of people who are living here,” Parker said.
Montgomery County has a higher median age — 39.7 — than Albany, Fulton, Saratoga, Schenectady and Schoharie counties. It also has the lowest percentage of people between the ages of 18 and 44 in the region. Couple that with higher than average unemployment for the region and a manufacturing base that left long ago, and the county doesn’t seem the most likely spot for young professionals to settle with their families.
But Parker is not alone in bucking the trend.
In 2005, Parker, along with Andy Heck, president of the RV and recreation center Alpin Haus, founded TILT, a group for young professionals in Montgomery County. The organization — it stands for Today’s Innovative Leaders of Tomorrow — now has more than 70 members between the ages of 20 and 40.
For many of the group’s members, TILT has been a way to make professional contacts. It’s also become a way to make friends and reaffirm the fact that young professional do live in Montgomery County and want to stay here.
“At first, I wanted to create this group for selfish reasons, so I could increase my business and grow professionally,” said Parker, an assistant vice president at the insurance agency Rose & Kiernan in East Greenbush. “But now, most of my closest friends are from TILT.”
For Parker and many of the members of TILT, Montgomery has everything a young professional could want, including affordable housing, close proximity to entertainment and industry and a safe environment to raise a family.
“For us, Montgomery County has been very embracing,” Parker said. “Where else can you become completely embedded in the community in just three years?”
Parker admitted that the idea of moving to Amsterdam was, at first, an adjustment, but now, Parker and his family agree that it was the right decision. Parker said he found a three-bedroom home in the city for $100,000 less than a similar home would have cost him in Clifton Park. The price difference meant that Parker’s wife could stay home with their son.
“We didn’t want him to be raised by nannies or in day care,” Parker said while eating soup at the Go Where I’ve Bean coffee shop on Church Street.
Parker now lives in Esperance, just over the Schoharie county line.
He said another positive to living in the area is the safety of the neighborhoods.
“It’s nice to let your child play in the yard without worrying about him disappearing,” he said.
Jay Marshden, 35, a golf pro at the Rolling Hills Country Club in Fort Johnson, has been a member of TILT since its inception. Marshden moved to Amsterdam from Malone because his wife is from the area. She works as a second-grade teacher in the Broadalbin-Perth school district.
Marshden called the area a perfect place to raise his two children, who are 2 and 5 years old. He also said the location is ideal — only 30 minutes from Albany and 20 minutes from Saratoga and Schenectady. Marshden said he sees the growth potential in the area and feels that change is coming.
“This is a great community, and it’s getting better,” Marshden said during a TILT mixer earlier this month. “I’m confident in that.”
Taking the lead
Young professionals are even getting involved with the community individually. Alderman Daniel Roth, who represents the 2nd Ward, is only 23, and Daniel DeLuca, 25, is one of the new members on the Amsterdam Industrial Development Agency.
Both Roth and DeLuca said they wanted to get involved to generate more local business and give young professionals a reason to stay in the area.
“You don’t see young people here — you see them getting out,” Roth said.
Parker said part of TILT’s mission is to help the community, and most of its members are looking to get involved.
“In the last two years, I think more young people are wanting to get involved, make a difference and do something,” Parker said.
These young professionals also have an idea about what they’d like to see in their communities.
Meaghan Johnson, 20, a Siena College student majoring in psychology and business, wants to come back to Amsterdam once she graduates. She said she is comfortable in the city, and her family is nearby.
“Loudonville is good and there is a lot of convenience there, but I miss the comfort and hominess of Amsterdam,” she said.
Johnson thinks that many of her friends would move back to the area if there were more job opportunities. The area is ripe for young entrepreneurs because there aren’t already a lot of businesses, she said.
Jason Rattray, 33, a sales manager at Alpin Haus and a member of TILT, said he wishes there were more restaurant choices in the area, and he also wants to see the downtown area come back.
Jamie Georgelos, 32, also an Alpin Haus employee and TILT member, said he wants to see the city grow because he likes the neighborhoods.
Parker said that while TILT is not a political organization, he thinks local politicians should be working with its members to better the area.
“Who has the pulse of the community better than us? It’s a no-brainer that we should be involved,” Parker said. “We are the future of the region.”
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Categories: Schenectady County