September 25, 2010

Colby, business cooperate to aid entrepreneurs

By Amy Calder
Staff Writer

WATERVILLE -- Danny Garin knows he wants to go into business when he graduates from Colby College in 2013.

He doesn't know exactly what that business will be, but by spring, he probably will have a pretty good idea.

Garin, 20, of Washington, D.C., will immerse himself all school year in everything related to entrepreneurship, from taking classes on how to build a business prospective to how to generate ideas and create a power point.

One the greatest things about being part of the Entrepreneurial Alliance at Colby, he says, is that he will be taking those classes with not only fellow Colby students, but also students from Thomas College and University of Maine at Augusta -- and members of the community, including business people.

The big perk is, the classes are free to the community, he said.

"It's unique -- it's one of those unique programs that sets Colby apart from its competitors," Garin said Friday.

Colby is working with area economic development professionals, alumni who have successfully established businesses, entrepreneurs and area business people who all have a vested interested in helping Maine's economy grow and be successful.

John Butera, executive director of the Central Maine Growth Council; Ken Young, executive director of the Kennebec Valley Council of Governments; and Michael Duguay, director of development services for the City of Augusta, are creating a network of business, education, finance, municipal and nonprofit officials in Kennebec and Somerset counties with the goal of helping entrepreneurs succeed.

This Kennebec Valley Entrepreneurial Network will provide connections and resources for entrepreneurs and aspiring ones.

As part of this new economic development model, business growth and job creation comes from within a community where existing resources are available, rather than from outside a community.

Garin, of Colby, Butera, Young and Duguay were among about 75 people who met at Colby on Thursday night in an invitation-only dinner and meeting to launch the entrepreneurial network.

On Oct. 25 at Colby, people in the community will be invited to a similar gathering.

"We want everyone who is an entrepreneur, wants to be an entrepreneur or wants to know more about being an entrepreneur to come," Butera said.

The guest speaker at that session will be Erik R. Pages, president and founder of EntreWorks Consulting.

His company is an economic and development consulting and policy development firm that focuses on helping communities and organizations achieve their entrepreneurial potential, according to its website.

Butera believes central Maine will benefit and grow from all the entities working together instead of individually. Enthusiasm for that idea was palpable at Thursday's meeting, according to Butera.

"I think it's gaining momentum, and we had members of the business community there who see the need for this and understand this is a critical component of growing our economy from within," he said.

Roger Woolsey, director of Colby's Career Center, which heads up the Colby's entrepreneurship program, said he tells students that the greatest risk in life is not taking one.

As part of the Colby Entrepreneurial Alliance, students will learn entrepreneurial skills to help prepare for a business competition in the spring. One or two students with the best business prospects will be awarded a grant donated by Colby alumni.

Garin, one of 31 students involved in the program, said judges will include local business people and professors.

"To us, this is a really exciting program that helps us become the entrepreneurs we want to be and create resources for us to pursue our endeavors and build our business," he said.

Garin, who is majoring in both economics and government, said he may want to start a private equity fund or consulting service.

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