Thinking about starting a business? Community members, representatives, local and state officials were on hand this week during the Lehigh Carbon Community College Entrepreneur Week and grand opening and dedication ceremony of their Business Enterprise Center (BEC) in Tamaqua.

Occupying the entire bottom floor of LCCC's John E. Morgan Campus Scheller Student Center, which once housed the South Ward Fire Company, the new center consists of classrooms, a conference room, reception area and business hatcheries, which are provided to give new entrepreneurs the space and resources needed to start their own business.

"We are helping entrepreneurs prepare businesses to create the workplace,"said Richard Warner, BEC Project Director, LCCC. He added, "Designed and created to provide business planning serves to to students, the center will serve as a conduit from the academic side to the practical side for students here at the college." Warner pointed out that the center's construction was funded by a $250,000 grant from the Morgan Foundation and its daily operating costs are funded via other various grants.

Developing class sizes range from only a few to up to 35 students. Rachel Plaksa, business division coordinator, mentioned that the center supports LCCC's business courses that work hand-in-hand with what is being offered at the college. The Business Enterprise Center is designed to assist business students develop business plans, offer consulting, training and technical research which will assist them in developing their business.

Teachers and mentors will also be available to coach students with the design of their business plans as well as locating potential financing of their businesses. BEC students Valerie Parks of Divine Redesign, Wescosville, a non-profit Thrift Store that provides fund for charities through resale of donations of home decor items and Dorothy M. Young of Cookie's Corner, Mahanoy City, which provides retail and online sales of home furnishings, gifts and season items where on hand during the ribbon cutting. Young said, "Without BEC, I wouldn't have been able to start my growing business." Parks stated, "BEC had a startup influence for me in my business and helped provide the tools to start my business," adding, "It provided a foundation to work from."

Warner noted that having Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) on hand to offer years of experience in running a business is just one of the ways for young business owners to learn the pitfalls of running and other business partners such as CareerLink, Small Business Association and the Students in Free Enterprise serving as a support team for business owners.

Tim Herrlinger, Executive Director of the Foundation, LCCC, mentioned that the new center raises the college to a new standard, stating, "It is in a class of its own." Maureen Donovan, Assistant Director of Workforce and Community Services, LCCC, said, "BEC will offer a meshing of different departments at the college for the better of the students and community." She added that the grand opening was an opportunity for community leaders and visitors to become more acquainted with the many programs LCCC offers to the community."

Commenting on future ties with BEC, Joe Urenovitch, president, Tamaqua Industrial Development Enterprises (TIDE), stated, "There are two ways to create jobs. Convincing industry to come in or grow it from scratch."

Also commenting on this, Schuylkill County Commissioner Frank Staudenmeier, Senator Dave Argall and community delegate George Halcovage Jr. pointed out the significant impact the BEC could have on local economy through enabling the establishment and viability of small businesses, the creation of jobs and taxable wealth.

They also pointed out possible options at the BEC to promote training options and business development at the Tide Industrial Park in Hometown. The center's business plan curriculum offers an introduction to resources related to the writing and development of business plan, as well as providing resources that include links to books and ebooks in the Rothrock Library, sample online business plans, Lehigh Valley demographic and economic data, and related databases and websites.

Managing the center are Warner, Project Director; Carlton R. Raines, PE, Associate Project Director, Adjunct Professor of Business; and Bruce Kemmerer, Entrepreneur Education Specialist, Adjunct Professor of Accounting, Business and Economics.

"We are very proud to have a facility like this in our community," said Micah Gursky, executive director, Tamaqua Area Community Partnership.

Following the grand opening and dedication ceremony, visitors were treated to a brief tour of the center and a reception, consisting of food, wine tasting, violin music and free portrait caricatures.

Warner added, " The college believes learning entrepreneurship, networking and the importance of having a strong business plan in place to launch a small business, which are all steps toward having a new business thrive. Our mission is to create a portal for students to enhance their entrepreneurship spirit in a practical way by offering ongoing consulting, training, technical, research and access to business planning services."

Students, interested entrepreneurs or visitors wanting more information about the center opportunity to learn about the new center are encouraged to visit their website at www.lccc.edu/bec [3]