The future of downtown Grand Rapids is bright, just ask the forty-two Michigan high school students who took to the streets this afternoon, looking for ways to contribute to the city’s urban development.  Having spent seven hours with this year’s class of new entrepreneurs, I am excited, and I’ll tell you why.

Today’s teens are grossly overlooked when it comes to forming new enterprises.  We sometimes fail to understand that developing entrepreneurial talent should begin far before they even reach the collegiate level.  West Michigan may be experiencing unprecedented growth in recent years, but the sustainability of this development will come to fall on the region’s talent pipeline.  And regardless of how many business plans that venture capital firms in Michigan review, we can always do better at stirring up the creative juices in our youth.

Sure, young 16 year-olds might not have the experience it takes to launch highly successful businesses; however, what they lack in sophistication, they more than make up for in creativity, originality and inspiration; and that’s exactly what this country needs.   Give a group of 40 teens a goal, an  understandable incentive, and an atmosphere of friendly competition, and it will surprise you how deeply engrossed they become.  Not only that, but they are very capable of understanding the impacts their efforts have on their homes, schools and communities.

There is nothing better than walking past a group of hardworking students, debating the cashflows of a new business idea.  For one week, our staff at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, are able to motivate and push these new entrepreneurs into a blurry haze of new ideas, and unique opportunities.  When the dust settles, what we have left is an imprint. An imprint that the students carry into college, and into their first years as graduates.  Teen entrepreneurs, flooding not filling, the talent pipeline.

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