One of only seven in state; heightens ‘entrepreneurial spirit’

NORTH BAY – Napa Valley College is now home to one of only seven business and entrepreneurship centers in the state. These centers are funded through the chancellor’s office of the California Community Colleges and are staffed by a network of community college professionals.

These centers are working in strategic partnerships with businesses, industry and community organizations to identify and meet California's economic development needs in the areas of business improvements and entrepreneurship training. Specific attention is given to providing small-business assistance and encouraging youth entrepreneurship.

The Napa branch serves Napa, Marin, Sonoma, Solano, Contra Costa and Sacramento counties, and will partner with the local small business development centers to provide resources to small businesses. Charlie Monahan, who formerly worked with the SBDC at Napa Valley College, is the program coordinator in Napa.

He said that because of these partnerships, SBDCs, which have been hit with serious cuts to their programs, will continue the work with small-business owners that they have been known for.

“They will be able to leverage their resources by partnering with us,” he said.

While the programs will have some parallels, there is a significant difference.

“We both offer trainings,” said Lorraine DuVernay, executive director with the SBDC in Santa Rosa. “I think where we are differentiated is one-to-one business counseling. There will be a lot of crossover in clients, people will go to a BEC for the training and then come to us for consulting.”

Mr. Monahan said that one program he is especially excited about is in the area of sustainable agriculture. The center is partnering with College of Marin with its new sustainable agricultural program.

“Because of the budget crises there will be an opportunity to provide fee-based classes for community members hoping that later classes could contribute to curriculum development,” he said.

By partnering with local, well-respected business growth organizations and community colleges, the BEC and the entrepreneurs they serve can tap into an abundance of resources and know-how already in place, thereby enhancing the long-term growth and viability of these companies, he said.

Through partnerships, collaborations, and relationships with businesses and industry and the 113 California community colleges, the BEC strives to heighten awareness of entrepreneurship as a proven career path.

“Our message to these groups is that we want to strengthen entrepreneurial spirit,” said Michael Roessler, director of the statewide program.

“We want to go out and take the resources that we have to partner with the local business groups that already exist.”

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