- October 28, 2009

Collegiate Entrepreneurs Offer Hope for Long-Term Economic Recovery

This past Saturday, I was invited back to speak at this year’s annual conference of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Association (CEO) in Chicago’s McCormick Place. CEO was founded in 1997 by Dr. Gerry Hills, then an entrepreneurial professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who had worked tirelessly since 1983 to establish the organization. CEO’s vision is to be the premier global entrepreneurship network which will serve 30,000 students, through 400 chapters and affiliated student organizations at colleges and universities. Today, 150 universities and colleges from across the country are members of CEO.

This year, there were 1,500 students attending the conference, about the same number as last year. That was an encouraging reflection, in and of itself, of the appeal of being an entrepreneur. I suspect, however, that the interest among undergrads in being an entrepreneur is also stimulated by the bleak conditions in the job market. So, while in my talk I communicated some of the lessons I have learned along the way in building successful businesses at Management Science Associates, IRI and now Comscore, I also made sure I stressed the importance of entrepreneurs and small businesses in creating jobs. I would go as far as to say that small businesses represent the engine of job creation. And, in fact, today small businesses are more important than ever as the U.S. struggles with a high and rising unemployment level. John Mauldin, my favorite economist, pointed out in one of his recent newsletters the magnitude of the challenge we are facing:

“The first element is Rising Unemployment. There has never been a sustained inflationary period without wage inflation. Wages are basically flat and falling. With 9.8% unemployment, 7% underemployed (temporary), and another 3-4% off the radar screen because they are so discouraged they are not even looking for jobs, and thus are not counted as unemployed (who made up these rules?), it is hard to see how wage inflation is in our near future. Think about this. Only a few years ago, less than 1 in 16 Americans was unemployed or underemployed. Today it is 1 in 5. That is a staggering, overwhelming statistic. Mind-numbing.”

Based on these ugly statistics, it’s readily apparent how important the role of entrepreneurship has become today in creating new jobs and helping get our economy back on track.

So, last Saturday, I took the opportunity to wish the members of CEO who are next year’s new graduates every success as they pursue their dream of creating their own businesses, because it’s clear that the realization of their entrepreneurial dreams could represent the cornerstone of an economic recovery.

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