CEO Program

CEO Program

Several Lawrence County businesses are already on board for a new program targeted toward high school juniors and seniors that is scheduled to launch in Fall 2015.

Courtney Yost, the executive director of the Lawrence County Industrial Development Council, is spearheading a fundraising initiative to bring a program called Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities (CEO) to Lawrence County.

“It’s something that will make us competitive, from an economic development perspective,” she said. “Crawford County just finished their first class. Jasper County and Wabash County will started this fall, so it’s imperative that Lawrence County adopts this program.

Locally, the CEO program would start with about 10 students in the inaugural class but could grow up to 24 students as the program continues to develop. The students will meet in the morning at an off-campus location such as a local business or a “hub” location where students gather when they aren’t visiting sites. The visits will allow the students to hear about the success and failure of local businesses and receive advice about becoming entrepreneurs. The class also involves a two-part project.

“The first semester of the class the students create a class business,” Yost said.

“The second semester, the students use some of the proceeds and create individual businesses. At the end of year, they have a tradeshow and market their products where people can buy them. These are actual businesses, where students have to purchase, monitor, and track inventory as well as market their brand and products. A lot of the students take those businesses with them when they go to college.”

Yost shared with the City Council that one of Effingham’s most recent success stories involves a CEO alum who now attends Vincennes University for culinary arts. The student started a cupcake business and has arranged for a summer internship with an Effingham restaurant. Yost noted the girl is already in talks with people in Effingham about opening her own restaurant once she graduates from VU.

“The most important factor, I think, is retention. You have students who want to return to the area or increase the pride in where they come from because they learn what it takes to be a local business owner and community member. Imagine if one student opened a new business or returned to the local community with a higher education degree. This program improves the community and economic development of the entire county,” Yost added.

The students will be selected through a blind application to ensure the students who will succeed the best in the program are chosen, not necessarily the best academically. Yost explained names will be removed for the application process.

Before any of that can begin locally, the program must have around 32 local, individual or business investors since it isn’t funded by the schools or communities individually. Investors commit to spending $1,000 per year over three years for a total of $3,000. Yost said the funding is fixed so all businesses are participating equally.

She added the idea was introduced to local businesses during the Lawrence County Development Workshop in March and has been marketing the program around the county. There have also been several informational sessions throughout July where local business owners could learn more about the program.

Current list of business investors:



-Aperion Care

-Benson Farms

-Bowler Performance Transmissions

-Casey State Bank

-City of Bridgeport

-City of Lawrenceville

-City of Sumner

-Cochran Insurance

-Complete Farm Conservation Operation, Inc.

-Deer Camp

-Dr. Gary Carr

-Kemper CPA Group LLC

-Lawrence County Board

-Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce

-Lawrence County Industrial Development Council

-Lawrence County Memorial Hospital

-Lawrence County Rotary Club

-Mr. & Mrs. David Paddock

-Old National Bank

-Pargin Retirement Planning Group

-Parrott Real Estate & Auction

-Peoples State Bank

-Rex Energy

-Rick Rucker

-Tracy Electric

We all should be very proud of these businesses that have stepped up to support the CEO program, which engages young people in a way that drives critical, creative, and advanced thinking, stimulates local economics, reduces brain-drain, improves local pride, and increases positive retention. These investors are usually seen on the forefront of community initiatives. These investors understand the need to improve the educational, economic, retentive, and attitudinal aspects of our local community. Lawrence County is very fortunate to have individuals and businesses that are so dedicated in the future of our area. Thank you to the investors of CEO.

The CEO program has a goal of 32 investors. If you are interested in learning more about becoming a CEO investor, please contact Courtney Yost at yostc@illinois.edu, 600 Cherry Lane, Lawrenceville, or (618) 943-5219..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *