The Herald-Times

Creating the next great homegrown entrepreneur

By Danise Alano-Martin
A Monroe County voice

June 5, 2011

Last month, cities across the country participated in Lemonade Day, designed to teach kids how to start, own and operate their own business and to save, spend and donate their revenues. It’s a growing movement of nurturing the next great entrepreneur.

Since the economy began its downturn, leaders across the country — from local economic development organizations to the White House — have been talking about how innovation and entrepreneurship will drive our economic recovery. After all, as the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention.

But innovation is so much more than invention. It’s not simply about the power of a new technology or new idea. It’s about using that power for good.

New York Times writer Steve Lohr described it this way in a Nov. 10, 2008, article about keeping America’s innovative edge: “Invention is coming up with the breakthrough idea . from H.I.V vaccines . to hyper-efficient cars. Innovation is the process that translates knowledge into economic growth and social well-being. Invention is science, innovation is economics.”

Enter the entrepreneur. For the scale of saving the economy, we’re talking about entrepreneurs with serious aspirations. It’s beyond wanting to sell lemonade — it’s more akin to wanting to develop the innovation that alleviates thirst (and having a favorable regulatory and market environment is important, too).

Bloomington was blessed with such an entrepreneur in Bill Cook, who translated the life-saving medical device he invented in his Bloomington apartment into a global conglomerate of 66 companies and many thousands of jobs. Much has been said in these pages in recent weeks about the wide-reaching significance of his life and legacy.

Take measure of the immense good translated from that initial invention, and it’s no wonder policy makers see fit to nurture innovation and entrepreneurship.

Let’s illuminate the path that Mr. Cook has paved and fuel the inspiration of those who would one day take up the mantle of making our world a better place.

Why not include Lemonade Day among our local strategies?

The Ivy Tech Cook Center for Entrepreneurship — indeed named for Bill and Gayle Cook — is joining the city of Bloomington and Monroe County to launch the effort for a community-wide Lemonade Day in 2012.

Look for the Boys & Girls Club and Girls Inc. at the Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market and the Taste of Bloomington at Bloomington City Hall on June 18 to learn how you can help nurture our next great homegrown entrepreneurs.

Danise Alano-Martin is director of economic and sustainable development for the city of Bloomington. Next week, Lawrence County economic development director Gene McCracken will be our contributor.