On a recent Monday evening in the back room of Belfast Chamber of Commerce headquarters on Lower Main Street, members of a new group for young professionals took a stab at a thorny question: How old can a young professional be?

Evan Hutchins of A&E Stoneworks recalled inviting a couple from Western Waldo County to check out the group, which was recently dubbed BAYPRO for Belfast-area young professionals reaching out.

"I was like, 'You guys need to come to this meeting," he said. "They were like, 'You think we're young?"

Steve Ryan, who started the group shortly after he signed on as the chamber's executive director last September, said the cutoff tends to be around 45.

"The words we are using are twenties, thirties and early forties," he said, adding that no one is checking driver's licenses at the door. Likewise, he said, those who push the upper boundary might have to weather some jokes about it.

"It's going to be a little gray around the edges," he said. Then, realizing the pun, he added, "Not gray like that. Although gray hair starts early with some people."

The age question has become a running joke in the formative months of BAYPRO. But for many members, the generational divide has been a real barrier to connecting with the business community through the traditional channels.

Brandi Moore, a branch manager at Camden National Bank, recalled going to the chamber's After Hours, and feeling like the event represented "the other end of the spectrum."

Kristine Colson, executive director of Wentworth Event Center in Belfast, said she tried to get involved with Rotary but found the weekly meetings and dues of roughly $800 per year prohibitive. BAYPRO holds one planning meeting per month and one social event. Asked if Rotary members were old, Colson tilted her eyes down. After a moment, she made a small nod of assent.

BAYPRO members aren't looking to pick a fight with older generations. To the contrary, Moore said the ultimate goal is to foster a kind of cross-pollination between younger and older sets in the local business community.

To date, the group has developed organically through the normal channels of networking.

Evan Hutchins and his wife and business partner Alana were invited by Ryan, who knew them through the chamber. They later brought in Alana Hutchins' sister Laura Lougheed, who works at Rollie's. The bar went on to sponsor one of BAYPRO's social networking events.

The group rejected the traditional model of assigning leaders and holding official meetings in favor of informal monthly "gatherings" at the cchamber office for planning and monthly social events at various locations.

Ryan attends the meeting but has done his best to stand aside.

"I have my hopes and dreams and wishes about where it goes, but I'm not steering it," he said.

When planning team members were looking to connect with the athenahealth crowd, Evan Hutchins offered to invite an old high school classmate who works there. Hutchins said the old classmate kayaks over waterfalls in his spare time, which immediately put him on a short list of speakers.

An icebreaker at BAYPRO's monthly socials involves attendees answering an open-ended question — most recently, "Who are you?" To get the ball rolling, the planning team usually taps a few people far enough in advance that they can prepare.

Moore said past attendees have approached the prompt in different ways.

"We got a lot of answers like, 'Here's who I am as a professional,'" she said. "Others said, 'Here's who I am as a person.' And some did both."

Zach Schmesser, executive director of the downtown business group Our Town Belfast, recalled one of the 15 speakers at the last social saying the experience of presenting herself professionally was a first for her. She later shared it on Facebook.

"Hopefully that's inspired other people to come out and participate," he said.

BAYPRO hosts a social gathering the last Tuesday of every month at various locations. The next one will be held at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 27 at Robin's Nest Consignment, 169 Searsport Ave. The question of the evening will be, "Where do you spend your free time?"

For more information about BAYPRO, visit: facebook.com/baypromaine