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Pa. offers free Y2K help to small businesses

September 14, 1999|By DON AINES

McCONNELLSBURG, Pa. - For companies worried about the expense of tracking down and fixing Y2K problems, there's a statewide program in Pennsylvania that will provide free assistance, even a visit from a technical specialist.

"They're willing to send a technician down here to make sure computers and computer software are Y2K compliant," Fulton Industrial Development Association Executive Director Marge Taylor said Monday about the Pennsylvania Technical Assistance Program, or PENNTAP.

"It's not just the computers. It's the peripherals, as well," said Taylor, who's spreading the word about PENNTAP in the county.

She said it will examine credit card processors, alarms, heating and ventilating controls and other electronic systems that could be affected by the turn of the century.

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"My personal opinion is (Y2K concerns are) way overblown, but it pays to check your systems," said Douglas Tharp, a PENNTAP technical specialist in King of Prussia, Pa. He said technical specialists around the state can provide up to 20 hours of Y2K assessment services to businesses at no charge.

Tharp said technicians can assess problems and run software and operating system patches at no cost.

With just 3 1/2 months left until the next century, however, it will become increasingly difficult to schedule a visit from a technician. Tharp said PENNTAP and the state offer other Y2K options for businesses.

"I think the free workbook and video are extremely helpful," Tharp said.

Those can be ordered by calling 1-877-PA2K-NOW.

Tharp said it's a good idea to get the package before scheduling a visit from a technical specialist.

Businesses with Internet access can check out www.pa2k.org for Y2K information, including patches that can be downloaded, Tharp said.

For this area, Tharp suggested calling technical specialists Ralph Caretti at 814-863-1579 or Warren Weaver at 717-848-6669.

The Pennsylvania Technical Assistance Program was formed in 1965 and is a partnership between Penn State University, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

Tharp said PENNTAP provides a range of technical assistance programs to businesses of all sizes, "although the majority of our clients employ less than 50 people and the majority of those probably have less than 20 employees."

Taylor said PENNTAP assistance could be particularly valuable for companies without a staff computer specialist.

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