KISSIMMEE – With the Central Florida economy struggling to shake off a double-digit unemployment rate, Janet Sterling is wondering just how many folks out there have big ideas for creating jobs – but no money to make it happen.
Think about it: an entrepreneurial plan that could lead to jobs being created down the road, except for one problem – the person developing the plan lacks the funding needed to bring that plan to fruition.
What they need, Sterling decided, was a middle player that could match the entrepreneur with the philanthropic funding sources.
So that’s exactly what she did: Sterling created the nonprofit agency Race To Create Jobs. And with the economy showing no clear sign of shaking off a stagnant employment base, she’s ready to move quickly on this project.
“I’m looking for things that create jobs,” she said. “When you put your energy into something like this, good things can happen.”
Sterling has created a web site, http://racetocreatejobs.com/, to promote the idea of matching people who literally “think big” on the jobs front with funding sources for their business plans. But she’s also gone a step further and is organizing a half marathon and 5K run, to be held next spring in Osceola County, to raise funds for this project.
It starts next March 31, with a job fair that will be held at the Kissimmee Civic Center. Then the next day, on April 1, there will be a 13.1 mile “Race to Create Jobs” half marathon, also starting at the Kissimmee Civic Center.
“The day before, we’re going to have a job fair where people come to get t-shirts and goodie bags,” Sterling said. “Anyone who finishes the half marathon will get a medal. The run starts at 7 a.m. and goes through the city, and there will be entertainment afterwards that people can stay for.”
Sterling said she started the website and nonprofit to help local businesses and small business owners find the resources to help them grow, develop, and network. Race to Create Jobs Inc. became a non-profit organization providing companies with another link to people who need their products and services.
Business owners can also advertise what they do on the site’s Dream Team page.
“I’m also looking for people to post jobs on our web site,” she said. “That’s a free service.”
The half marathon and 5k run, she added, has also become a way to build interest in this project.
“It’s kind of evolved,” she said. “I wanted to do something to bring services to the area, and my son loves to run. I got a gift for him, a Disney Run pass to the Disney marathon, as a Christmas gift, and then I thought, you know, we can do a half marathon ourselves.”
The main goal, though, is to create jobs, jobs, jobs.
“I’m looking to do things that will bring business to the area,” Sterling said. “If someone has a business plan, we will try to find them sponsors.”
The Think Big program now has a committee that meets twice on a month, on the first and third Thursdays, at 9:30 a.m. at Nature’s Table restaurant in downtown Kissimmee. Christ VandeWall, a member of the committee and himself a runner, said the marathon is likely to be a very effective way to get out the word about this program.
“I ran a race on July 4, and we had 3,150 runners, and it was in Winter Park,” he said. “If that one attracted that many runners, this one – a half marathon – should easily attract 5,000 runners.”
In the long run, Sterling added, it could also help revitalize the region’s economy, by tapping into the ideas people have to spur economic development.
“If you think big, big things can happen,” she said. “I think this idea, when we get it going, could go national.”
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