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While many Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship investors begin by giving money to their local CEO program, they often see that the investment of time also makes a huge impact on the students their money supports and the community in which they live.

“The people in the business community who invest in these kids get a heck of a lot back from the interaction of the kids and how kids respond in such a positive way,” said Bruce Gibson, whose company, Illinois Electric Cooperative invests in Greene-Calhoun, Pike County and Morgan-Scott CEO programs.

The Illinois Electric Cooperative, alongside several other investors, listened to Executive Director Craig Lindvahl and Jack Schultz talk about how CEO could impact the communities they serve four years ago.

“We bought the idea that if we can build social capital for some of these kids, there is a chance they will come back.”

Because the oldest program, Pike County CEO, is only three-years old, Gibson said it’s still too premature to know if CEO students will come back to the community, but he has seen an immediate transformation of students as they enter and exit the program.

Gibson has hired three CEO students to work at the co-op as interns based off of presentations they gave while in CEO. But he said the real benefits the CEO students receive is that of a network.

“The networks that we are building for these kids are terribly powerful,” he said. “And that enhances the chances of them coming back one day.”

Investors of the CEO programs will bring business community members and CEO students together in October for a breakfast. During this event, students are scattered throughout the room and encouraged to reach out to and build relationships with those in the business community.

“We bring people in the community together in an unique way to think about the advantage of building these strong networks,” he continued. “Sharing food and sharing knowledge is what makes us human. People in the business community enjoy sharing knowledge immensely.”

Gibson recalled a day when CEO students visited a farm equipment company. The owner of the shop said the day was not off to a great start, but as the students interacted with her, it turned “an ordinary day into the best day of the year.”

Gibson said, “I think that happens all over the place.”

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