Port Huron career coach well on his way to trading a paper clip for a hotel, one step at a time

It all started so innocently.

A blue paper clip became a wood-fired pizza from Eli’s Eats in the Streets, which then became two jars of Hantoon’s Munny. As it stands at press time, that blue paper clip has since triggered a series of trades that has resulted in one year of free hair service from Salon PiZazz, an approximate $1,400 value.

And they’ve only just begun.

Josh Sabo is the founder of The INDUSTRY, a non-profit organization that fosters career development skills in area young people.

It’s been a big couple of weeks for The Industry. On Tuesday, April 28, the organization was the recipient of a $6,000 grant from the Community Foundation of St. Clair County’s Youth Advisory Council, money that will be used toward The INDUSTRY’s Career Exploration programs.

And just the day before that, on Monday, April 27, Sabo launched the Blue Paper Clip Project.

It’s a project that sounds simple and daunting at the same time. Sabo started with a single paper clip, offering it for trade through a Facebook group he created. The food truck Eli’s Eats in the Streets then offered him one of their pizzas for the paper clip. It’s only grown since there.

"In one week we’ve gone from a paper clip to something of $1,400 in value. You hit a lull and then something like that happens," Sabo says.

It’s important to note that the Blue Paper Clip Project is no social experiment for experiment's sake. There is a goal at hand.

Sabo intends to make a series of trades that starts with the paper clip and results in obtaining an old Port Huron motel or apartment building. He’ll then use that building as both student housing and for hands-on work experience.

Students interested in the trades can fix it up. Students interested in design can practice their ideas there. Students interested in hospitality can help run the business, which will double as an operating hotel and student housing.

"This idea has been at the top of the whiteboard for a while. I’ve wanted to do it a long time and now with the coronavirus and nothing really going on, plus with the recession, people are more likely to make trades," Sabo says.

"This can bring people a lot of smiles. In the lull of quarantine, it gives people something fun to watch."

To view the status of the Blue Paper Clip Project, visit the Facebook group online.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

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