Rogue Community College will be one of three two-year schools in the Pacific Northwest taking part in the Avista Business Entrepreneurship Network program aimed at kick-starting new businesses.

Rogue Community College will be one of three two-year schools in the Pacific Northwest taking part in the Avista Business Entrepreneurship Network program aimed at kick-starting new businesses.

The Spokane-based energy production and transmission utility will provide RCC with $100,000 to implement the program over the next three years.

The network will provide education and ongoing support for budding entrepreneurs in Avista's Northwest service territory.

"The idea is to help community colleges help our entrepreneurs so they can launch successful companies," said Steve Vincent, Avista's regional business manager for Oregon.

"When you think of community colleges, you often think of degrees and education programs.

This will have education credits attached to it, but the idea is to take nontraditional students and give them certain skill sets, enabling them to launch companies."

North Idaho College in Coeur d'Alene and the Walla Walla Community College branch in Clarkston, Wash., also are expected to begin the program during the fall of 2013.

"A lot of people have a great business idea," said Vincent, who founded the Southern Oregon Angel Investment Network.

"They want to launch, but they don't understand accounting or marketing. They don't have time to go off and get a four-year degree, but they want to launch a company now. This is very focused and condensed."

The network follows a pilot program created in 2007 at Spokane Community College. The entrepreneurship initiative is the brainchild of Roger Woodworth, Avista chief strategy officer.

Woodworth suggested that one of the best strategies for exiting the protracted recession was to foster broad-based innovation and entrepreneurship.

"The partnership created by the Avista Business Entrepreneurship Network," Woodworth said, "will engage more people, leverage more resources and accelerate quicker outcomes for greater impact in business development and job creation."

The Avista Center for Entrepreneurship will match foundation pledge dollars to help ensure the long-term financial sustainability of the program. Spokane Community College is developing curriculum with involvement from members of the Business Entrepreneurship Network. Avista said it will create a micro-enterprise loan fund for students who complete the program and create new businesses. Each college also will participate in recruiting a cadre of mentors, advisers and professional services providers who will offer ongoing business support.

Some 94 student entrepreneurs have completed training and launched 28 businesses during the first four years, said Jeffrey Waybright, the program director at Spokane Community College. Another 16 will complete work this month, and three more startups are in the works.

Among the startsups, Waybright said, are a small-engine repair shop, a construction company specializing in sewer work, a property management company, bookkeeping services for seniors and a cleaning business.

"We haven't had any high-tech businesses," he said. "But we've seen a lot of service industries and a couple of retail launches."

Waybright, a CPA by trade, said financial knowledge is generally an obstacle for would-be business owners.

"A lot of the students didn't know how to do market research so they could narrow down their target audience and go after them," he said. "A lot of them came in with great ideas, but after putting the numbers together, they found it can't work. So they have to readjust their plan, whittle costs down, charge more or reach more customers."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email business@mailtribune.com.