GRAND RAPIDS — The community built on entrepreneurship will host the national organization dedicated to teaching entrepreneurship to tomorrow’s leaders.

Junior Achievement of the Michigan Great Lakes today announced that Grand Rapids will host the JA 2012 National Leadership Conference on July 16-19 at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel and DeVos Convention Center.

The four-day conference will host 400 JA staff members and other attendees and consists of three themed days focusing on leadership, innovation and impact. It has been more than 19 years since Junior Achievement held its conference and exhibition in Michigan, and it has never been hosted in Grand Rapids.

“JA’s National Leadership Conference serves as a continued catalyst for Grand Rapids to showcase its strengths as a national convention arena and a center for entrepreneurship,” William C. Coderre III, president of Junior Achievement of the Michigan Great Lakes. “Grand Rapids ranks as the smallest metropolitan market to host this event, so we are looking forward to capitalizing on this opportunity to ensure the attendees’ experience exceeds expectations and results in a positive ROI for our region. I am confident that West Michigan businesses will roll out the red carpet for our delegates.”

Conference highlights include an opening night reception at the Van Andel Public Museum where JA staff will network with colleagues from across the nation, keynote speakers, breakout sessions, functional forums, an Innovation Expo along with strategic planning discussions and the JA USA Presidents meeting. The conference will conclude with a banquet celebrating staff service, retirees, Staff Hall of Fame and other key awards.

This year, the conference will also renew a tradition where the attendees will participate in a service project to benefit the local community. Attendees will be asked to purchase and bring a hardcover book for grades K-8 and these books will be given to San Juan Diego Academy during the conference. San Juan Diego Academy is a K-8 Catholic School in Wyoming, Mich. and is named for Mexico’s first indigenous saint and the Americas. Principal Rosa Fraga was excited to learn her school had been selected since San Juan Diego Academy students participate in Junior Achievement programs each year.

“In my nearly 40-year JA career, I have always been impressed with the success of West Michigan’s JA operation,” said Junior Achievement USA President and CEO Jack E. Kosakowski. “When I attended last year’s JA West Michigan Business Hall of Fame, I was extremely intrigued by Grand Rapids’ dynamic city center and its robust business community. JA associates from across the country will enjoy this Midwest jewel.”

Junior Achievement of the Michigan Great Lakes is the 19th largest JA chapter of JA USA, the largest organization dedicated to educating students about work force readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy through experiential, hands-on programs.

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