Camp tests students' business sense

Saturday, March 13, 2004

At 12:30 p.m. Thursday, Alexander Sali was taking notes in his physics class at Jackson High School. Twenty-four hours later he was sitting on the board of directors for the Plexic Company, manufacturers of a revolutionary product that combines cutting-edge computer technology with an everyday pen.

Don't bother running out to an office supply store looking for these space-age writing implements. You won't find them. And don't bother looking up Plexic's customer service line to complain either. The company only exists at Camp Enterprise, a day-long seminar on business issues attended by 127 high school juniors and seniors from 17 area schools.

The camp was sponsored by local businesses and the Perryville Rotary Club, Jackson Rotary Club, the Rotary Club of Cape Girardeau, Cape West Rotary Club and Cape Girardeau County Rotary Club. It has transformed the cafeteria at the Career and Technology Center in Cape Girardeau into a microcosm of a competitive business world. That world consists of 21 other teams or "businesses" competing to be the most efficient makers, marketers and distributors of the imaginary EchoPens.

"Our prices are too high," Sali, a German exchange student, explained during a recess from his meeting. "We have to bring them down."

Since 8 a.m., Plexic and the other companies watched presentations from real local businesses on pricing and production of their product. By 8 p.m., they added marketing and capital investments to their portfolio of business knowledge. The team that finished the night with the best bottom line returns was to win free movie tickets.

After each board confers on what action to take, they deliver their ideas to the simulator -- three fold-out tables in the back of the room. There, volunteers Chris Edmonds and Kevin Crawford entered the data into Junior Achievement Simulator software in three computers. The software then ran that data against a series of criteria -- such as interest rates and tax rates -- designed to simulate the real-world business climate. The results were then printed out for the company's perusal.

Over the past 11 years, local Rotarians have worked with local businesses to hold 12 Camp Enterprises. Before this year, the camps averaged 50 to 60 students and attendance was steadily declining. But thanks to a few changes, this has been a breakout year for the program.

Previously, Camp Enterprise had been an overnight weekend excursion to Illinois. This year, the Rotarians decided to pack it all into one 12-hour school day and to move it to the new facility in Cape Girardeau.

The building allows the event to be more centralized," said project coordinator Brigitte Bollerslev. "It's easier for more schools to attend."

335-6611, extension 137

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