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Perham EDA, M State join forces for job center

Entrepreneurial opportunities in Perham are about to get a boost.

In March, the M State Business Entrepreneurial Service (BES) center will open a business incu-bator site in a portion of the building that now houses the offices in Perham Health, formerly known as Perham Memorial Hospital.

The new site will be a joint venture with Perham's Economic Development Association (EDA).

The space will be leased from the hospital by the EDA at what EDA Director Chuck Johnson said is a generous cost.

With space for 11 tenants, the EDA will only have to pay rent for those spaces that have been filled. The partnership with M State means that, in the end, with all spaces filled, the program will run at no cost to the city.

"There is a high upside to it and not much of a downside," Johnson said,

The advantage to the city is that those businesses that are struggling to get off the ground will have a space and coaching needed to boost them into the business community. From the EDA's end, growth for the community is always a bonus.

M State Executive Director for Business and Entrepreneurial Services, Beth Pridday, said the pro-gram would offer affordable office spaces, along with regular coaching for businesses.

With sites already in Detroit Lakes and Frazee, the program has proved itself a success. In Detroit Lakes, a group of local authors used the program to grow their business. Just recently, the crew put out a nationally award-winning children's book. In other cases, Pridday has seen business owners move from operating a start-up during 'after work' hours into one that they can now refer to as their full-time job.

"A lot of our success stories are in the fact that some are able to hire additional employees or grow a business to where it's supporting them now," Pridday said.

The BES program was the brainchild of former M State President Ann Valentine. Her vision was to create a support network for area entrepreneurs, seeing as though many of the college's graduates end up going into fields that lead to self-employment.

Along with Pridday, Incubator Manager Erika Johnson will regularly be available for coaching.

Businesses involved in the program will set goals, which Pridday and Johnson will help them work toward.

"The business has to set some benchmarks they have to do along the way," Pridday said.

Business participants will see a lifespan in the center of around three to five years, Pridday said. At that point, the business will 'graduate' into the real world.

The offices are equipped with all the necessary equipment, including a conference room, shared workspace, furniture and high-speed Internet.

Rent for the program will be set at an affordable price to those businesses the program deems fit.

Entrepreneurs will meet with Johnson once a quarter to monitor progress.

Businesses interested in the program are subject to review by the advisory board, which will look at the overall business plan. All applicants will submit basic information, provide a business plan and complete a four-question application.

Anyone interested may contact Johnson at 218-846-3665.