ELKHART — Elkhart County’s Junior Achievement program will partner with ETHOS Innovation Center to build a simulated city, one where local children will learn how to run a business.
The organizations announced plans to build a J.A. BizTown and Finance Park at the ETHOS Innovation Center during Junior Achievement and Lemonade Day’s third annual Business Legacy Hall of Fame Induction Gala Saturday at the Lerner Theatre's Crystal Ballroom.
“This just looked like a natural partnership for us to be able to share this opportunity with students, and we’re very, very excited to have this as part of our complex,” Patsy Boehler, ETHOS executive director, said during the announcement.
Junior Achievement BizTowns are a city-like environment where elementary school students playfully learn through hands-on lessons what it takes to manage money, businesses and lead a city.
Amish Shah, CEO of Kem Krest and a Junior Achievement board member, believes the program will offer local youths a head-start on experiencing business in a city known for entrepreneurship.
“Elkhart is a community of entrepreneurship, and what we really want to do is make sure that we continue to give these kids the tools and the resources that they need,” Shah said.
Plans for the new BizTown and Finance Park culminated from a study Elkhart-based consulting firm Insight Strategic Concepts conducted for the city on creating a business innovation center, Insight President Shelley Moore told the gala attendees.
The project could be ready to open by next fall on approximately 8,500 square feet of available space at ETHOS, 1025 Michigan St., she said.
Thanks to the facility’s design, Elkhart County’s BizTown is expected to feature two-story buildings, a first for Junior Achievement programs nationwide, said Liz Brow, the local chapter’s executive director.
“Ours is going to be one of the very unique ones in America,” Brow said. “There’s not a BizTown in the country that has two-story buildings.”
Brow plans to model the new BizTown to teach manufacturing and industrial principles, reflecting Elkhart County’s manufacturing-heavy economy. And because the county specializes in producing recreational vehicles, Brown also expects to pair an RV with the program to give students a close-up view of how they’re made.
Work is still underway to secure one.
“We’ve had a lot of interest from about three or four different parties,” Brow said.
The new BizTown won’t be limited to Elkhart County children, as Brown anticipates hosting classes from across the region, including St. Joseph County and Michigan’s Berrien and Cass counties.
About 250 guests attended the gala and watched as organization heads inducted 10 new members into the Business Legacy Hall of Fame.
A silent auction was also held as a fundraiser. Brow expected the event to raise about $100,000, an amount she said could fund 301 Junior Achievement classes in Elkhart for the 2018–19 school year.
The gala’s keynote speaker was Michael Holthouse, an entrepreneur who founded computer services company Paranet Inc. as well as the Lemonade Day program.
Elkhart County’s Junior Achievement launched a local version of the program in 2013, which teaches children entrepreneurial skills by setting up a lemonade stand.
“Lemonade Day is kind of that hands-on experience of what you’re learning in the Junior Achievement classroom,” Brow said.
The local Lemonade Day grew to where Junior Achievement hosted so-called “Lemonpalooza” festivals in Goshen, Elkhart, New Paris and Middlebury in May. Lines of lemonade stands operated by local children opened at each location, Brow said.
Because of the popularity, Brow plans to expand Lemonpalooza to include events in Bristol and Nappanee next May.
Aimee Ambrose can be reached at email@example.com or 574-533-2151, ext. 316.
YOU SHOULD KNOW
2018 inductees into Junior Achievement of Elkhart County's Business Legacy Hall of Fame
• The Boling Family of Boling Vision Center — recipients of the Dr. Franklin Miles Excellence in Healthcare award
• Dzung Nguyen, president/owner of Goshen Motors — recipient of the Thomas Atkins Minority in Business award
• Rex Martin, CEO NIBCO Inc., and late wife Alice Martin — recipients of the Guy David Gundlach Community Impact award
• Peter Liegl, CEO Forest River Inc. — recipient of the CG Conn Excellence in Manufacturing award
• Richard Pletcher, founder of Amish Acres — recipient of the Lifetime Achievement award
• Nelson Gongwer, Nelson's Catering and Fundraising — posthumous recipient of the Herman Borneman Excellence in Distribution, Retail or Logistics award
•Rob Staley, founder of The Crossing — recipient of the J. Lawrence Burkholder Excellence in Education award
• Tom Irions, CEO ASA Electronics — recipient of the Clarence Moore Excellence in Technology award
• Jesse and Amanda Sensenig, owners of Goshen Brewing Co. — recipients of the Havilah Beardsley Young Entrepreneur award