By Arianna Pickard
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Norman’s young business professionals are making their next move to connect with the growing number of young talent in the community.
NormanNEXT, a nonprofit networking society of professionals ages 21 to 40, recently hired Erin Houghtaling as staff liaison to help manage the organization’s growing committees and reach more young people in Norman.
NEXT was created as a program of the Norman Chamber of Commerce about six years ago as a recognition of the importance of fostering young professionals and helping them expand their influence on the city, said John Woods, president of the chamber.
Since then, it’s grown to 175 members who are given opportunities to network, discover new jobs and engage in Norman’s political and government scene.
NormanNEXT chair Kyle Allison said Houghtaling was ideal for the job because she already had administrative and event planning experience.
Houghtaling owns and operates Up & Running Events, a consulting business that helps companies, nonprofits and clubs organize 5K and 10K running and walking events.
She has a bachelor’s degree in exercise science from the University of Mississippi and a master’s in sports management from Western Illinois University. Houghtaling moved to Norman from Seattle in April after her husband took a public relations job with the University of Oklahoma Athletics Department, so she hopes her position with NormanNEXT will help her network and connect with other young professionals in the community.
A staff liaison position became necessary for NormanNEXT when its activities and committees became too much for the chamber’s vice president of communications Kyla McMoran to manage in addition to her own work with the chamber, Allison said.
“When we were a younger organization, we didn’t require that much of Kyla’s time, and as we grew and the chamber grew, it required more of her time, so the chamber decided we could sustain a new position and give Kyla back her full-time job with the chamber,” Allison said.
Not only will Houghtaling help NEXT reach more young professionals in Norman, she’ll help coordinate the organization’s five committees to make sure everyone is working toward a common mission, Allison said.
“With any nonprofit, we have lots of goals and ideas, but we have full-time jobs, so we need someone to help remind us of our goals,” Allison said.