Last week I attended the Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities (#CEC2014MSUE) conference in East Tawas, Michigan on October 8th and 9th. The conference was put on by the Michigan State University Extension program. The idea behind the conference is to promote, educate, inform, and connect entrepreneurial communities. Huh?
Many small towns are struggling to remain in existence. Their young are leaving. Some will say they are leaving to spread their wings. Mostly they leave because they don’t have job opportunities to keep them around. Businesses don’t want to relocate to an area they don’t have the trained labor force to work in their business. So what are we to? We’re in a Catch-22.
As the CEC clearly states “…we all have a part to play in supporting local businesses and entrepreneur development in our communities.” As business owners it is up to us to step up to the plate and get in the game more than we ever have in the past.
Some of the initiatives include programs for our children to get hands on training with a particular project. The Ogemaw Humane Society and the Ogemaw Commission on Aging are two great examples of students learning a trade by doing. They built both of these buildings as part of their classroom training. In Oscoda County they have a donated building and wood working equipment to help train our kids with strong skills that will support them. I belong to a local chapter of a national women’s group. They just started a program called Twenty Torches. This program pairs a young woman with a mentor. But we need to do more. (Note: these are northern Michigan counties and were hard hit by Michigan’s one-state recession)
Many of our kids are lacking in the entrepreneurial spirit our forefathers had. Can you imagine any of them packing up and moving across country to a new and dangerous territory? How about moving to a country you can’t speak the language? My grandfather did it. He understood to have a better life he had to show some initiative and take risks. So at 17 he left Italy and never looked back. It’s time to teach our kids that risk is not failure at all. Not taking that risk is certain failure.
Our children are also lacking in basic business etiquette. They don’t understand proper attire in an office setting. Some don’t understand the value of being on time. Too many times I walk into a place of business and the young adult is playing on their cell phone.
One of the concerns I keep hearing about is the succession of an existing business. Sometimes a business owner doesn’t have family to leave the business to. Sometimes his family just has no interest in it. How do we match up a retiring business owner with a young adult willing to buy into the business and keep it running and creating jobs for the community? Before they can do this they need to be trained in all aspects of running a business. There are plenty of organizations out there to do this such as the SBA (Small Business Administration), SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives), your local EDC, etc. They can help many new business owners.
As a small business owner what are you doing to help the next generation of young professionals and entrepreneurs? Let’s share our ideas and grow our communities.
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