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‘Young bloods’ organize

The founding members of Connecticut Young Marine Professionals (from left): Sam Crocker of Crocker's Boatyard, Heather Petzold of Petzold's Marine Center and Scott Sundholm of S&S Marine.

The founding members of Connecticut Young Marine Professionals (from left): Sam Crocker of Crocker's Boatyard, Heather Petzold of Petzold's Marine Center and Scott Sundholm of S&S Marine.

Sam Crocker is the assistant manager at Crocker’s Boatyard in New London, Conn., and he was born and raised in the marine industry. At 24, he is a fifth-generation Crocker — along with brother Greg — and is working his way up the ranks of the family business.

In many ways he is a typical 20-something member of generation Y. He has a degree in business management from Southern Connecticut State University, but teaches snowboarding during the winter months. He plans to eventually take over the yard — established in 1881 by his great-great grandfather, Henry A. Crocker — and its 230 slips at the mouth of the Thames River from his Uncle Skip and his father, Dave. For now, Crocker is learning the ropes, moving boats and working in the service, parts and customer service departments.

He is also a member of the Young Professionals of Eastern Connecticut, a networking group. During the winter, he came up with the idea for a marine industry-focused group (inspired in part by the “40 or younger and flush with ideas” article in the December 2013 issue of Soundings Trade Only). Connecticut Young Marine Professionals was launched in January as a subgroup of the Connecticut Marine Trades Association.

CMTA president Grant Westerson became an immediate advocate. “It’s a graying industry, so young people are vital, and these kids know a lot more about the industry just from watching their parents and uncles work in it all these years,” he says. “I tell them: ‘Don’t hesitate to ask questions of the older people in the industry. I’ve been in the industry for 50 years, and I don’t want you to stumble where I stumbled. I want every step you make to be a productive one.’ ”

After publicizing the new group in a CMTA newsletter, Crocker scheduled the first meeting at the Hartford Boat Show in late January. “My goal was to get 18 people; 24 showed up, and we ran out of chairs,” he says. The participants were a mix of general managers, yard workers and small-business owners. Scott Sundholm, founder/president of S&S Marine in Old Saybrook, Conn., was the elder statesman at 33.

The group brainstormed about what it might accomplish and came up with a mission statement: “To provide an energetic platform for our members to grow and promote themselves personally and professionally, as well as introducing teaching and encouraging younger individuals and the general community toward the marine industry.”

They agreed to meet monthly at businesses around the state. “It’s good to see the younger people come forward, and this group is going to work as a transition to the CMTA because they’re already going to know people in the industry,” Crocker says.

He says the benefits of networking and cross-learning from other members of the group already have proved valuable. As a first act, the group is taking over the scholarship fund for continuing education for young people entering the industry. The major component to fundraising is the annual CMTA golf tournament in July.

“An infusion of younger blood is going to revitalize the scholarship fund,” Crocker says. “Our first initiative is big enough to make a difference, and we’re really excited about it.”

This article originally appeared in the June 2014 issue.

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