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TeleCenter turns to small businesses

March 21, 1998|By CLYDE FORD

TeleCenter turns to small businesses

RANSON, W.Va. - The Jefferson County TeleCenter is looking for local entrepreneurs wanting to set up a business without renting an entire office.

Pete Smith, the director of the Jefferson County TeleCenter, said a new program between the Jefferson TeleCenter and the Small Business Development Center at Shepherd College is geared towards those looking for affordable, computer-equipped office space to work as well as assistance in getting their business started.

The Jefferson County TeleCenter provides the computer, software and cubicle while the Small Business Development Center works with the business owner in setting up, Smith said.

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Smith said that a lawyer looking to strike out on his own instead of joining a firm is one of those interested in joining. Others such as surveyors, real estate appraisers and those who plan to do a lot of business over the Internet also are good candidates.

"New businesses often fail because of poor cash-flow management and a lack of overall business management skills," said Fred Baer, director of the Small Business Development Center at Shepherd College. "By sharing resources in the STAR Center's nurturing environment, small businesses have access to facilities, equipment, and experts that otherwise may be financially or logistically out of reach."

The program is called the STAR Center, for Start-Up, Training, Assistance and Resources. The program also is receiving assistance from the Technical and Community College at Shepherd and the Jefferson County Development Authority.

Smith said one of the reasons behind the program is finding tenants to fill the Jefferson County TeleCenter.

The center opened in 1997 to large fanfare as a place for Washington workers to telecommute to work instead of driving from Jefferson or Berkeley counties to D.C.

Smith said the center is about 30 percent occupied, lower than expected.

The workers at the center do their jobs by computer and phone, which saves office space in Washington and saves the workers a more than three to four hours of driving a day.

Smith said more than 40 workers have expressed interest in telecommuting, but have met with resistance from their managers.

"The basic problem is the senior managers are indifferent and the middle managers are scared to death of it," Smith said. "If these managers would manage by results instead of by surveillance it would be better. They'd have happier, more productive campers."

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