- Associated Press - Thursday, December 11, 2014

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - Jim Larkin says there’s a “talent war” going on in St. Joseph County.

It “competes with every city in the country and every country on the globe for the creative class and those few that have the ability and know-how to build successful enterprises that employ many people and sustain communities,” he told the South Bend Tribune (https://bit.ly/1BAAeqj ).

A new program, targeted at area teenagers, could give the county a competitive edge when it comes to educating the “creative class” that Larkin, CEO of Scientific Methods Inc. and owner of the Harris Center, a business incubator in Granger, describes.

Businesses and organizations would be the classrooms. And their leaders would be the teachers.

Twenty-five area high school students could soon have the opportunity to participate in an exclusive program called “CEO,” an acronym for Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities, to learn the ins and outs of starting a business from the ground up.

Larry Garatoni, co-founder of the South Bend Career Academy and who also owns an area investment management firm, is organizing the local program and inviting area school corporations to participate.

Mishawaka Superintendent Terry Barker told the school board about the program at a recent meeting.

Barker said he supports the CEO program because it provides an alternative to classroom-based instruction by giving students an opportunity to talk with, learn from, and see what local entrepreneurs have done to establish their businesses.

“Having a hands-on experience can open up a whole new world of thinking for some students,” Barker said.

Though South Bend Community School Corp., as part of its career and technical education offerings, has an entrepreneur class, a spokeswoman said the district is interested in learning more about the CEO program.

Garatoni is gearing up for the program’s implementation in the fall of 2015. Some 25 students will be selected from all of the local participating districts via a blind process.

Organizers are in the process of getting formal approval for the four high school credits that students would earn in a year to be dual college credits.

There are currently about a dozen CEO programs in the country, with two in Indiana. The local program would be based on a program of The Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship.

Area businesses are being asked not only to open their doors as classrooms and to allow their leaders to serve as teachers, but also to help foot the bill.

Garatoni said he’s looking for local business people to commit to donating $1,000 each year to the program for the next three years. In addition, he said, there is public grant funding that’s available. And through his own foundation he’s already donated $10,000.

Mike Lindburg, of South Bend Woodworks, is one business owner who is already on board. He said none of the business participants so far expects that every student who participates will open or run a business. But, the benefits of the program, he said, go beyond that aspiration.

“Any time a young person is exposed to individuals engaged in an endeavor requiring planning, dedication and execution with direct and tangible results,” Lindburg said, there is a benefit. I believe in the power of good and bad example. This program looks to introduce our students to those offering good example both in business and the community as a whole.”

For more information on the CEO program, check out stjoeceo.org.

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Information from: South Bend Tribune, https://www.southbendtribune.com


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