By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
There is no recession or even a slow recovery in the economy at KidBiz this year.
The Grand Island Chamber of Commerce program that teaches elementary school and middle school children how to run a business, which will take place Saturday, June 27, had a robust turnout at a training session Tuesday in the Connor Middle School cafeteria.
KidBiz chairman Jim Sharpe said more than 70 KidBiz rookies took part in training, one of the biggest groups of first-timers he's had in the 19 years he's run the program. He estimated the chamber will having a business population of 75 businesses in the Town Commons when the program runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
"If you take that times two kids in every business, and some are having four, that would mean we're having close to 150 kids," Sharpe said.
"This was a very enthusiastic group," added Sharpe of the rookie class.
The training is not just for kids, but to tell the parents how they will participate: "That participation is to be seen and not heard, and the student is the one who is basically in charge that day."
Students will need a permit to open a business, and parents will not just hand money to the children for a startup business, Sharpe said, but instead work out a loan application to their child, with collateral.
"If I don't pay my loan, you keep my phone," Sharpe said of a student's possible loan agreement.
The chamber's goal is to make it exciting event for kids, he said, and to help the students enjoy the event while "learning without realizing they actually learned something."
"They're making this decision that they're going to start a business, ours is to make sure that they succeed," Sharpe said of the chamber.
Sharpe has held school assemblies that inspire prospective entrepreneurs to go home to parents with their ideas for making money. He conducts informational sessions at Huth Road Elementary School, Kaegebein Elementary School, and St. Stephen School.
The public is invited to the event. Businesses will open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Whitehaven Road will close from 8 to 10 a.m. to allow businesses to set up.
"I never get tired of doing this program," Sharpe said. "To me, it's so rewarding because of the fact that you get to see the excitement of students who actually turn around and realize that they did this. This is theirs. They own it, they feel it, they made something with it."