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Published: Tuesday, 4/3/2001

Broader base sought by local online network

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

After nearly five years of concentrating on its network's employees, a Toledo online training provider wants to bolster its membership with firms that won't be leery of sharing resources.

Businesses can join LearnShare through a two-year commitment for $50,000 annually and get access to the group's online library of courses, purchasing leverage for other resources, network for technical advice, and collaboration for various projects, said John Mallin, co-chairman of the provider's board. He also is leader of learning and development for Toledo's Owens Corning, where the idea for LearnShare was generated.

With a strong base now, he said, “We finally decided that we think we've got it, and we're confident enough that we have enough stability here.”

LearnShare began in 1996 and has 13 noncompeting member companies, including Toledo's OC; Owens-Illinois, Inc.; and Pilkington North America. Cleveland's Eaton Corp., Detroit's General Motors Corp., and San Francisco's Levi Strauss & Co. are among other founding members, all of which have positions on LearnShare's board.

So far, the group has added one company, Chicago CNA Financial Corp., and has had interest from a half-dozen others, said Lois Webster, LearnShare's general manager.

“We're still trying to keep this to noncompeting companies so that people are really comfortable with sharing,” she said. “We're really being selective about who we're turning to.”

Such subscribers won't have representation on LearnShare's board or be able to get proprietary information from charter companies, said Mr. Mallin. By using LearnShare's resources, though, they will be able to save time and money, he and others said.

OC, for example, was able to put on a 250-employee seminar about getting and receiving feedback by using a couple of resources from LearnShare's library as a base, Mr. Mallin said. Developing such a program from scratch normally would cost $20,000, he said.

Companies can save 100 hours' work and thousands of dollars by using an existing program through LearnShare, said Diana Unger, who heads Pilkington North Americ's training and development.

“It's a huge cost savings - huge cost savings - because all of the development work has already been done,” she said.



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