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New entrepreneurs get their power from Avista

Wednesday, June 27, 2012   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Kristina Moy
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By Mike Patrick (via the North Idaho Business Journal)

Before too long, North Idaho College will be forming its first full class of job creators.

The initial energy for its entrepreneurial enthusiasm comes from Avista Utilities.

The Avista Business Entrepreneurship Network is expanding from five-year anchor Spokane Community College to include NIC, Rogue Community College in Medford, Ore., and Walla Walla Community College-Clarkston. While SCC has been hatching big and not so big business ideas with Avista’s help since 2007, the other three colleges likely will launch their programs in the fall of 2013. But there’s every indication the wait will be worthwhile.

"One of the best strategies for pulling out of the longest, deepest recession of our time is to enable broad-based innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Roger Woodworth, vice president and chief strategy officer for Avista. "That’s why we’re partnering with SCC to extend their unique entrepreneurship program to other colleges throughout the region we serve.”

Each of the participating colleges receives $100,000 from Avista — the money coming from Avista funds not linked to customers’ rates — over three years. At North Idaho College, the disbursements will likely be $35,000 each of the first two years and $30,000 the third year, said Steve Trabun, Avista regional business manager and project manager for the entrepreneur program.

"However they can best use those dollars to get that program up and running,” Trabun said of NIC’s start-up funds. He added that "$100,000 by no means will sustain the program. What we’ve asked for from them is a commitment for the long term at their school.”

In NIC’s case, the commitment will involve the NIC Foundation matching Avista’s $100,000 — perhaps at $20,000 a year over five years, Trabun said. That money will help support scholarships and grants for students.

While some details and a lot of work remain before NIC can launch its program, the successes at SCC bode well for North Idaho. And the fact that SCC’s outgoing president, Joe Dunlap, is NIC’s incoming president should help ease any growing pains here.

"Avista and Spokane Community College have really done all the legwork,” said NIC spokesman Mark Browning. "They’ll speed up our timeline and make us more efficient. Ideally, we’d like to have it going in January ‘13 because we really see the need for it.”

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