NEW YORK (Reuters) – Stephen Schwarzman, Chief Executive Officer of private equity firm Blackstone Group LP (BX.N), said on Friday he’s launching a program that he hopes can create thousands of jobs in communities hit the hardest by the financial meltdown.
Blackstone’s charitable foundation is committing $50 million over five years to help foster entrepreneurship. As part of that, it is granting $2 million to start programs on the campuses of Wayne State University and Walsh College in southeast Michigan.
“We think this is quite a powerful concept,” Schwarzman said in a phone interview. “We started working on this right after the Lehman crisis… We looked and said: What can we add on a differentiated basis that can help people?”
Schwarzman, a former Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc (LEHMQ.PK) banker, founded Blackstone in 1985 with former Lehman head Pete Peterson. The company now has assets under management of about $100 billion and made its founders billionaires.
“We thought, given that Blackstone itself was an entrepreneurial start-up with two people … that if you get entrepreneurialism right it is a very powerful thing,” Schwarzman said.
The program is aimed at students and recent graduates, who will use websites to create business plans which will be evaluated to work out which should be funded.
Those students will then be matched with business people from the community to “maximize the success that any of these activities will have … and ultimately they would find financing and launch these businesses,” said Schwarzman.
Schwarzman said based on statistics, the initiative could support each school starting 20 businesses per year — meaning in 10 years it could have created a total of 26,000 direct jobs.
“Now, if we spend the $50 million in similar programs … and they have that level of success, we’ll be able to directly create 650,000 jobs … and that’s without the benefits to all the suppliers,” he said.
By Megan Davies
(Editing by Gerald E. McCormick)