Junior Achievement breaks ground on Grand Rapids Center

Junior Achievement of the Michigan Great Lakes is set to break ground on a new $12.9 million Free Enterprise Center.

The Junior Achievement Free Enterprise Center at 4090 Lake Drive SE, Grand Rapids, will serve as the regional staff headquarters. The 35,000-square-foot building also will house the three experiential labs for students across West Michigan: Fox Family JA BizTown, Karl & Susan Hascall JA Finance Park and Haworth JA Entrepreneurship Incubator.

Media members were invited to a ground-breaking ceremony scheduled for 3 p.m. Wednesday.

Over 20,000 students and adults from across West Michigan are expected to visit the center each year.

The Fox Family JA BizTown experience starts with 12 classroom learning sessions for fifth and sixth graders. Students learn how the economy operates and how to interview for jobs. They then step into their roles as employees, citizens and consumers during a full-day simulation at the JA Free Enterprise Center.

The Karl & Susan Hascall JA Finance Park teaches financial independence skills to 8th and 12th grade students. Students spend 12 classroom sessions preparing for the experience. Their day at JA Finance Park involves a randomly assigned career and family scenario.

Participants create a monthly budget based on their income and family situation. They then must choose options for housing, transportation, insurance, utilities, philanthropy and more to keep their budget balanced and complete the day. Those choices involve consequences, just as they do in real life.

Success in achieving a balanced budget unlocks the JA Career Center experience, which focuses on the high-growth and high-demand STEM jobs of the future. This combination prepares students to manage their money, find a job and achieve financial independence.

The JA Free Enterprise Center also will be the home of the new Haworth Entrepreneurship Incubator and afterschool program, where business leaders will mentor high school students. Students will develop a business plan and execute it. They will learn the critical components of running a successful business, including financing, sales, business operations, marketing, customer service and more.

Each year, the best student company will be nominated for the national JA Company of the Year competition. Additionally, successful companies will be encouraged to launch in the West Michigan economy.

Major construction and renovation will be done by June 2021, and storefronts for JA BizTown and JA Finance Park will be available between June and December 2021.

Erhardt Construction is the general contractor for this project, and Integrated Architecture is providing architectural services.

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