NEWBURYPORT — One student has an idea to create a business that would rent college textbooks to students one semester at a time; another will be opening an extreme sports gym, while still another teen is delving into the world of electronic commerce.
The future of Newburyport is in the hands of Newburyport High School seniors enrolled in the Newburyport Area Industrial Development Foundation entrepreneurship class taught by Northern Essex Community College professor Bill Zannini.
The past and future met Friday in a rare encounter with the founders of NAID, including Mike Strem of Strem Chemicals, Peter Morse, retired president of Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank, Daily News columnist Bill Plante and Page Insurance owner Bill Page.
The young entrepreneurs listened eagerly as the men recounted their past business experience and what it took to create the Newburyport Industrial Park.
"It is important to have a vision," Bob Miller, current president of the Newburyport Education Business Coalition, said. "These men didn't know it would create a pot of money or a wonderful city, all they knew was they had to improve the city and the hand they were dealt."
The latest in programming offered by the Newburyport Education Business Coalition, the entrepreneurship class offers high school students college credit.
Paid for by a large donation from NAID to the NEBC, the class challenges students to think with an entrepreneurial mind-set and create a viable business plan that will serve as the final exam.
Strem told of his struggle to find something he liked and wanted to do with his life as a history major in Pittsburgh. Strem eventually got into chemistry and opened his own business in Danvers before moving to Newburyport.
"At some point in your life you need to think about what you're good at," Strem said. "If you are not good at it, you will not be happy."
NAID was formed by a group of residents and businessmen in 1965. Established as a nonprofit, NAID launched a fundraising campaign that netted $200,000 in donations from more than 600 residents who gathered one night in the high school gym. The group, led by a seven-member board, started buying farmland around Scotland Road and Parker Street and another parcel on what is now Graf Road as a way to bring businesses to Newburyport and provide jobs for the youth of the city.
The first business to open in the industrial park was International Light Co., at Graf Road and Parker Street. After its initial purchase of 119 acres, NAID bought and sold more over the years.
Plante urged the students yesterday to think about the symbolism behind the first $200,000 in donations, which created a thriving economy in the city.
"In giving a community is built," Plante said. "A community is made of smaller communities made up of individuals all coming together."