May 28, 2014 at 11:29 pm

Mackinac speaker: Invest in young entrepreneurs

Americans need to invest more money into developing entrepreneurs and spend less time worrying about innovation, said Jim Clifton, chairman and CEO of Gallup Inc., in a Tuesday speech.

Speaking at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual policy conference at Mackinac Island, Clifton discussed the topic of his new book, “The Coming Jobs War,” by painting a bleak picture of rising unemployment rates and a lack of small businesses.

In the face of this situation, Clifton said businesses have the wrong values. They spend millions of dollars on innovative ideas, he said, but don’t focus enough on developing sound business models and the country doesn’t place enough emphasis on finding future entrepreneurs.

“Jobs don’t come out of innovation,” he said. “Innovation has no value whatsoever unless a customer is standing next to it.”

Clifton cited a Gallup study that found 44 percent of American adults had a full-time job, the lowest number in the country’s history. In addition, the country is home to about 2 million small businesses, he said, but more are closing every year than opening.

To reverse the trend, Clifton said the country needs to focus on developing young business owners.

“This is something you and I fix,” he said. “About 2 in 100 (children) can build something pretty big. Five in 1,000 are like (Apple’s) Steve Jobs. In the greater Detroit area, there’s a few thousand kids that can build anything. Create a man-hunt, create a woman-hunt. Go find them.”

Clifton said schools need to do better at identifying potential business leaders through tests.

“If we make that development as intentional as we have also sports, music and other things,” he said, “everything will change.”

mmartinez@detroitnews.com
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