Gallup Organization Vice Chairman and CFO Jim Krieger had a concern when his two sons attended high school in Lincoln. They were certainly bright enough students, he thought, but they also were “a little less than engaged in school.”
When he talked with them about how he could help, a theme emerged that would spark Krieger’s well-known and respected efforts to develop entrepreneurial programs in Nebraska.
Krieger’s sons didn’t see the reason to learn the topics taught in school, and they didn’t see the relevancy to their lives.
“I thought, ‘How do I help my sons understand the relevancy of something going forward?” said Krieger, who has been with Gallup for 33 years.
The Krieger Family Foundation established by Jim and his wife, Penny, has focused on the importance and relevancy of learning entrepreneurial skills, supporting and helping develop programs such as the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension 4-H Youth Development Program and the Lincoln Public Schools Entrepreneurship Focus Program.
Entrepreneurial skills are useful in all types of professions, not just starting a business, Krieger said.
“Anything with risk toward a successful and positive income, in all walks of life … there’s entrepreneurship in all of that.”
Engrained Within the Curriculum
With the LPS entrepreneurship program, in which Southeast Community College and UNL are involved, Kreiger worked with administrators and teachers to ensure entrepreneurial messages were developed into the core curriculum, even in seemingly unrelated subjects such as English literature and American history. Then, more specific entrepreneur lessons were developed, such as how to write business plans as well as the ins and outs of running a business.
“Our objective was education and awareness among kids, teachers, parents and support systems, but we chose to start with education,” Krieger said. “Education doesn’t necessarily make the entrepreneur, but let’s make sure we support the idea of enterpreneurism and what it is. And then some day later in life, when you choose to become a businessman, they maybe I’ll know a little more about it and be more supportive. That’s the big picture of why we got involved.”
Likewise, when building economic development programs, Krieger said, Nebraska needs to create a business climate that supports individual entrepreneurs and gives them the tools to succeed.
“There’s no silver bullet about what you can and can’t do,” he said. “You have to get back to what each individual does and what we can do to support that effort.”
Here’s what Krieger says the state can do to help foster a better entrepreneurial climate in Nebraska.
Support for ‘lifestyle entrepreneurs.’ Lifestyle enterpreneurs are those who start a business to improve their way of living, not necessarily to make huge profits. Some deride these type of startups, Krieger said, because they aren’t investments that lead to high growth. But small and home-based businesses that provide individual flexibility are important because they improve quality-of-life issues in a community, which can lead to a healthier and more-vibrant economy.
Tax credit for angel investors. Krieger says he has long advocated for a state tax credit for local angel investors. This would help preserve investment capital in Nebraska and add more to the state’s economic environment than the state would ever pay out in tax breaks, he said.
“We can’t make it (angel investment) occur, but we need to develop the environment to help it occur.”
Revitalize economic development funds. Nebraska has many economic development funds that now are little used – legacy programs from 50 or so years ago that no longer serve a purpose, Krieger said.
Many could be modernized to provide needed capital to economic development programs to revitalize the state’s economy. Of particular interest to Krieger are programs that let colleges and universities share resources, such as classes taught online and through video.
Literacy in finances, economics and entrepreneurism. The state needs to invest more time and resources into schools’ financial literacy and economics programs, all of which should touch upon aspects of entrepreneurism, just like the Lincoln Public Schools’ program.
In 2011, it’s more vital than ever that students understand the basics of finances, economics and entrepreneurism to achieve both individual success and to enhance the economic vitality of the state.
“It needs to be embedded in the curriculum, because then it becomes a requirement and, therefore, more important,” Krieger said.