“I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I’m jaded,” he said. “This is kind of knock-your-socks-off impressive.”
He saw a presentation on the program last month. The program’s director was talking about kids who graduated from it.
One teen’s life ambition was to work in his dad’s welding shop. He had no plans to go to college.
Then he was selected for the entrepreneurship program and developed a business retrofitting vehicles to burn alternative fuels like propane and natural gas.
When he left high school, he went on to college and continued operating that business.
Stegall said that impressed him.
“At the bank, we get lots of people who come in with business ideas,” he said. “I don’t see that [level of professionalism] from a lot of older people who’ve been around much longer.”
Those kinds of go-getters could do great things in the Kokomo area, he said.
Many people think the way to grow an economy is to convince big businesses to relocate here, Stegall said. His years of experience in economic development have taught him otherwise.
“That’s the hardest and least effective way,” he said.
The best way to stimulate the local economy is to get local people to create businesses here, he said. That’s the whole goal of this program.
Hauswald said it’s a great way to get students invested in their local community — something that might prompt them to settle here one day instead of moving away.
“It helps our students learn about the needs in the community, the demographics in the community and to be an active part of making the community a better place,” he said.
Program officials told Stegall that many graduates stay in the area.
They surveyed one class before and after taking the entrepreneurship course. Before it started, only two or three students said they were interested in staying in their community long term, Stegall said. But after starting their businesses, 16 said they intended to stay.