The millennials are the group of people born between the years of 1982 and 2002,
who are now entering the workforce.
Monday evening, Jack Shultz, author of
"Boomtown USA," and Craig Lindvahl, founder of a CEO program in Effingham, spoke
to a relatively large gathering in the auditorium of Lincoln Community High
School about the millennial generation and how to help keep them in their home
During the one-hour presentation, the two speakers took turns talking about
the various aspects of the new generation of young professionals as well as the
Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities program that was founded in Effingham
County by Lindvahl.
The innovative program works in conjunction with community high schools.
Lindvahl began the program in Effingham County, but it quickly spread to five
additional areas in Illinois this year. Next year, six more communities will
take on the program. Lindvahl and Schultz shared that if the Logan County
community and educators are interested in implementing the program locally, it
would not be available to them until 2015.
Schultz spoke early about the millennials. He said first off, all these are
young people who watched the bottom fall out for their parents in the most
recent recession. It altered their attitude toward careers and has made them
"free agents" in the workforce.
He said their careers are not necessarily going to be money-driven. These are
the ones who are going to find their own path and become their own bosses and
grow their own futures.
And the question becomes, where will they grow? Will they stay at home or
will they move on? He offered an example, using the very well-known success
story of Bill Gates.
Gates began his business in Albuquerque, N.M. With a struggling young
company, he found himself in financial straits early on. He approached various
lending institutions in the community as well as the local economic development
program, seeking only $35,000, and was turned down by all of them. With no
lenders or investors, he turned to his father for help.
Gates' father did agree to help him, under one condition: His son and the
team of professionals who made up his company would have to relocate back to
Gates' hometown of Seattle. Gates agreed to the terms and the rest is history.
Schultz talked about this to drive home the fact that the community of
Albuquerque missed a golden opportunity to bring thousands of jobs to their area
Lindvahl spoke next about how we stifle our children. He said that in
kindergarten every child is excited about everything. He noted, "If you ask
kindergartners to talk about nuclear physics, every hand will go up." He said
the first-graders will also be anxious to answer and participate, but by second
grade they are losing their curiosity; they wait to be told what they are
supposed to think and do.
Lindvahl said the process continues throughout their education, and they
become brittle. By high school and college, these same youngsters have a skewed
sense of responsibility and fairness. They have taken on the attitude that they
are not responsible for their failures or their own lack of knowledge, and when
they fail a test, they think it is because the test was not fair or not graded
Schultz spoke about the late 1800s, when the world began to change rapidly.
That's when the telephone was invented and more. Technology in that age moved
quickly. He said this new generation is seeing the same thing. Showing a photo
of the 2005 election of a new pope, there was one visible cellphone. In the 2013
election, the crowd was a mass of cellphones recording the event.
He said that in the 1950s, the telephone was a place in the home. Today the
phone is a thing that is mobile and attached to young people. He said over 80
percent sleep with their cellphone beside their bed. He also noted that if you
ask these young people what on their smartphone they could most do without, they
will answer "talking" because they much prefer texting.
Schultz said there is a paradigm shift in economic development. Economic
development is going to continue seeking new business but is also going to
nurture existing business, and a new concept will be growing young entrepreneurs
in the community.
Schultz and Lindvahl both talked about some of the remarkable young people
they are finding through their programs.
Schultz told about a 17-year-old student who, when his community grocery
store closed, borrowed money and reopened the store and made it successful. He
worked at the store himself before going to school. Because the education system
understood the importance of the store, they looked the other way when the young
man came in late to classes. He continued to run his business, and over time he
even expanded and now owns multiple stores.
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Schultz also talked about a young man from Effingham named David
Orr. Orr began his own online business called Fruper. Schultz talked
to Orr about how he is making his business a success. Orr said he
offers one special "Fruper Dooper Deal of the Day" every day.
Schultz said he questioned how anyone could make money doing
that, and Orr was happy to give an example. The young man had
cleaned out his parents' garage, was bagging up unwanted items and
selling "Sacks of Crap" for $9.95. He promised there would be
something great in every bag. In three days, Orr sold 1,500.
David Orr was only 15 years of age. Today he is a university
junior and was one of only a handful of young entrepreneurs invited
to meet Warren Buffett face to face.
Schultz talked about how the CEO program changes the attitude of
young people. He said that at the beginning of a class with 25 high
school students, the students were asked how many believed they
would return to their hometown after college. At first, only three
thought they would. By the end of the class, 21 of the 25 students
believed their hometown community had something to offer them as
young businessmen and women and said they would come home to start
The CEO program was described by the speakers as a Junior
Achievement program on steroids. The classes are offered in
conjunction with the local high schools, and students do earn two
credits toward graduation. Each class is 90 minutes and includes
work-study on setting up a business. Then the actual businesses are
established and run by the students.
In the course of the program, students talk with bankers and
investment firms, attend business meetings, and hear from over 100
guest speakers. They participate in an internship program and host
their own trade show, where they introduce their companies to the
Of the program's 110 recent graduates, 109 are in college and one
is a Navy SEAL.
During the question-and-answer session at the end of the
presentation, Jan Schumacher of the Logan County Board asked how the
program could be set up in Logan County.
If the county wants the program, it will have to be in
conjunction with the high school. There will be a need for
approximately 30 to 50 financial investors at $1,000 each.
Patrick Doolin asked what the biggest hurdle would be to setting
up the program. The speakers responded that one big issue is getting
the schools on board. Schultz said there is a division between
educators and entrepreneurs that needs to be addressed, and it will
come with the two parties connecting with each other and developing
a mutual respect for one another.
He added that a big step toward achieving that would be for the
business community to show more respect for educators, and instead
of criticizing them, ask the question: "What can I do to help you?"
Another interesting comment made by Schultz was that if kids want
to start their careers away from home, that's OK. He said that many
young people want to get out into the world after college, but they
also want to come home when they start raising their families. To
drive home his point, he asked Patrick and April Doolin when it was
that they decided to move back home and become local entrepreneurs.
April confirmed their desire to come home came with the arrival of
their first child.
Schultz said there was nothing wrong with letting young people
leave. He said to go ahead and send them out, but then bring them
back home with something to come home to.
Finally, because the program is not available until 2015, the
question was asked what we can do in the meantime. The answer was to
invest time in getting to know the young people in the community.
Lindvahl and Schultz encouraged business and community leaders to
reach out to the high school and college students, talk to them at
every occasion, encourage them, and let them know they have value in
There was to be a short reception after the presentation, and
Schultz suggested that they start that communication on that very
night. He asked how many high school students were in the audience
and encouraged the local leaders to reach out to those young people
during the reception and start getting to know who they are.
The evening ended with Andi Hake making closing remarks about the
Young Professionals Network and other initiatives the Lincoln/Logan
Chamber of Commerce has taken to promote keeping young business
people in the community.
[By NILA SMITH]