Serving as chair of Charlotte Area Networking for Development and Opportunity (Can Do!) for the last year has brought several things to light for John Bailey. One of which is the importance of the Charlotte community growing its own economic base locally and regionally.

It’s one of the reasons he found Generation E Institute (GenEI), a Battle Creek-based non-profit that offers youth entrepreneurial education programs and consulting services, so appealing.

Bailey was one of three local mentors, along with Laurie Newland and Rick Todd that recently completed training to become certified to teach the GenEI curriculum. Generation E, through a collaborative effort with Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP) and AL!VE, secured a grant to provide training for up to 54 people in the tri-county area.

Locally, Bailey, Newland and Todd are eager to share their knowledge with local youth.

The three are inviting all middle and high school-aged youth to attend an informational meeting Jan. 16 at 6:30 p.m. at AL!VE to learn more about Generation E Institute and how students can create their own small businesses.

The plan is to establish an eight-week program aimed at cultivating the entrepreneurial spirit within youth in Charlotte. The program will be set up to run in February and March and will be tailored to fit the needs of those attending the Jan. 16 meeting.

The program teaches students the ins and outs of creating and running a business — from idea to market. At the end of the program, students will have created a business that they will showcase at the Generation E Regional Expo, scheduled for April 2014 in Lansing. The course is offered free of charge, though students would have to raise money to cover their start up costs.

Todd said this opportunity gives local youth a chance to turn a hobby or personal interest into a business. Students would come up with their own ideas, which will be cultivated by the guidance of the GenEI curriculum.

“There are a lot of good ideas that kids have that don’t come out … they stop at the idea phase,” Todd said. “A lot of times there is nobody there to mentor them. This is an opportunity to give kids a way to take their creative ideas and make an impact.”

Bailey said the program is a way to get youth excited about the possibilities that lie within their own community.

“I see this as a way to retain our youth,” Bailey said.

Newland, who has worked with Can Do!’s youth pillar in the past agrees.

“We’ve always struggled connected with kids in the youth pillar,” Newland said. “I see this being an excellent opportunity for a lot of crossover with Can Do! Every bit of this program touches one of the four pillars in Can Do!”

Bailey said he has already spoken with several Charlotte business owners who are eager to share their expertise throughout the program. He said the program is a great way to get the community involved and create a stronger connection with local youth.

For more information about Generation E Institute and the local training available in Charlotte, contact Rick Todd at (517) 256-7276.