A group of Lake Erie College students is providing a fresh perspective to downtown Painesville.
On Oct. 19, as part of an assignment and competition, six students presented solutions to improve the relationship between the city and college, which is based in the city.
Downtown Painesville Organization Executive Director David Polakowski, five of the organization’s board members, community leaders, and Lake Erie College students and faculty filled Starfish and Coffee, located at 154 Main St., to hear the students’ proposals.
Jeffery Eakin, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at Lake Erie College, said it is easy to identify problems in the world, but it takes entrepreneurial thinking to come up with opportunities and solutions.
Eakin and Peter Apicella, who teach entrepreneurial classes at the college, provided students with a real-world experience.
“We decided to challenge them with the ‘town down’ problem and we asked the students what would build that connection between downtown Painesville and college students,” Eakin said. “We decided to call them ‘Solution Seekers.’ They had to do a no more than two-page written plan and no more than a five-slide PowerPoint.”
The primary concerns identified by the “Solution Seekers” included a lack of student engagement and awareness.
Senior business student Andre Bucur’s plan involved bringing downtown Painesville to the campus and the students to downtown Painesville.
“After these personal relationships are made, an effective marketing plan is really the critical area that I think will bring the college campus back to downtown Painesville,” he said. “If you ask any LEC student, for the ones that are in attendance here, ‘What is there to do on a Wednesday night?’ They are going to tell you $1 bowling and cheap drinks at Scores. I want to create that relationship with the stores and shops in Painesville, as well.”
Bucur suggested that daily specials at the businesses will attract more students.
Other students wanted to build more of a “college town” and proposed developing a symbiotic relationship, a point-of-sale system that allows students’ Storm Dollars to be used at local merchants, more activities to appeal to student interests and more incentives from current businesses.
The competition was open to all undergraduate students, regardless of major.
The first-place winner received $450; second place, $350; third, $250; and the last three finalists tied at fourth place, each receiving $100.
More important than the competitive nature of the project, Polakowski found the students’ insights to be incredibly helpful and said he plans to work with more students to get their ideas on ways to improve downtown Painesville.