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Published: Friday, 3/19/2004

College considers business venture

WAUSEON - Northwest State Community College is considering opening its doors to small business entrepreneurs as both an economic tool and additional revenue source for the college, its president announced yesterday.

President Betty Young told the Fulton County commissioners that the two-year college in Archbold is researching a possible arrangement with local businesses - start-ups or existing - that would allow them to utilize college equipment and expertise on campus.

In return, Dr. Young said Northwest State would build up equity in the companies, an amount that likely would depend on the magnitude of their size and ventures.

The president described the possible setup, one that's still in the review process, as a boost for economic development in the area.

"It's good for everybody,'' she told the commissioners.

Commissioner Jack Graf encouraged Dr. Young's efforts, saying he recalls when Northwest State was nothing but a cornfield.

Now, the public college in southwestern Fulton County is home to 3,400 students.

"We just encourage you to drive on,'' Mr. Graf said. Dr. Young was hired as president of the college last year. She will be inaugurated as president during a ceremony on April 17.

After yesterday's meeting, the college president said she suggested the idea involving small businesses shortly after she arrived on campus. She's received information about the concept from the president at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, N.C., where a similar offering exists.

Dr. Young said she was unaware of any other community college with a similar arrangement in Ohio.

Shawn Ferguson, economic development director for Fulton County, said yesterday that the Northwest State idea would an enhancement to his department's ongoing efforts with small businesses.

"Anytime we can add programs or tools like that, it's very useful,'' Mr. Ferguson said.

If it's approved at Northwest State, Dr. Young said the venture would be open to businesses in the college's five-county area of Defiance, Fulton, Henry, Paulding and Williams.

The businesses could use existing equipment at the college and receive assistance in a wide array of college fields, which include offerings in business and engineering technologies, and more specifically areas such as electronics welding, plastics, and fabrication.

She said a goal would be to have the first business underway by fall, with a possible pilot project before that time.

"There's a lot of interest,'' she said. "We've even had our first business approach us."

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