SHARON, Pennsylvania (WKBN) – Keeping young professionals in the Shenango Valley, that’s the goal for one local group. Penn-Northwest’s Homegrown Initiative is finding a variety of ways to accomplish this.

For the past 30 years, Mercer County loses about 1% to 2% of its population each year. But the Homegrown Initiative wants to change the narrative, focusing on four key elements: live, learn, work and play.

The local non-profit helps job seekers find work, so they can build their lives and careers, specifically in Mercer County.

Since their hard launch earlier this year, they’ve also hosted several social events that bring young professionals together.

There are several local colleges and trade schools nearby.

Homegrown wants to see graduates in the area grow roots and build their careers here, rather than returning once established years later.

Organization leaders are hopeful their goals of retaining young professionals in the area will be successful long term.

“When we first started these events I was a little hesitant. I’ll be honest, I was scared. I didn’t know what the community’s response would be to young adult focused events. But being sold out almost instantly on three events, you can really tell there’s a need for it,” said Jake Rickert, of Homegrown Initiative.

All three have been very successful, the most recent was Saturday night for its inaugural Run for the Roses Kentucky Derby Party.

Not only are they great networking opportunities but all the proceeds go right back into the community, helping with youth development and young adult retention.

“So right now we’re doing a great job taking our college students, our trade students, you know those career-ready young adults and getting them placed in careers locally. But equally important, we think we need to have a stance on career awareness before it comes to career placement. So this coming fall semester, you’ll see us more in your local high schools,” Jake Rickert, Homegrown Initiative.

Jake says they have a plan for a two-year expansion into the high schools. They want students to know more about local jobs, manufacturing, health care and small businesses here in Mercer County.

The Homegrown Initiative continues to grow, they are already getting ready for their next event plans.

They have not released too many details yet, but expect to hear more in the future about a viewing party at Waterfire Sharon later this summer.