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Clarkson opening second entrepreneurship center


SARANAC LAKE — Clarkson University is setting up shop here.

The Potsdam-based university's entrepreneurship center has rented space in the village to set up an office for telecommuters and has announced a partnership with the Adirondack Economic Development Corp. to help fledgling entrepreneurs get started and existing ones keep going.

The center has been at Clarkson for four years and now is looking to spread its wings into other regions.

"Our long-term vision always has been ... to help start up small rural microenterprises, that's small businesses, that could be replicated all over the country," said Marc S. Compeau, the university's director of innovation and entrepreneurship. "We hope to become the first stop for entrepreneurs and then we can direct them to all these other organizations."

All of the services that are offered in Potsdam will be extended to Saranac Lake, according to Mr. Compeau. Entrepreneurs in the Adirondacks will be able to get help with the concept of their business, writing a business plan and finding funding. The four-week course the university offers will be paired with, or rolled into, the 15-week course already offered by the Adirondack Economic Development Corp.

"I think they elevate our platform; they provide us a level of expertise that heretofore we haven't had," said Michael R. Conway, executive director of the corporation, which also provides loans to startups. "The ability to augment our training with Clarkson experience makes our lending a lot less risky."

Clarkson's office in the mountains will have space with high-speed Internet access, including a conference room, that businesses or telecommuters can rent. That idea comes from the university's Forever Wired conference, which aims to create jobs in the area by promoting broadband access.

"We'll have a business center that supports telecommuters," Mr. Compeau said. "In the park, there's such limited access to high-speed Internet; we're going to have space you can use to extend the stay of telecommuters."

Some large companies, such as IBM, will allow employees to telecommute to extend their time on vacation, and the center will make that possible for people who have second homes in the mountains, he said.

The office is undergoing renovations and should be ready to open by the early fall. The university also is looking for a full-time director, who likely will be hired within the next few weeks.

Originally, Clarkson expected to announce a partnership like this one in the early fall and open it even later, but the timeline was ramped up, according to Mr. Compeau. Now, the plan calls for opening a third center and having a fourth partnership announced by 2011. Details of the plan were unavailable, but the university's Entrepreneurship Center is looking to create them in Albany and Rochester, he said.

In the Adirondacks, the development corporation, which covers 14 counties across the park and the north country, also is looking to expand the partnership to other towns once the first has been tried and tested.

"That's the end goal: to create jobs and tax base for the economy," Mr. Conway said. "The more we can do to realize their dreams, the better the community can be. That's the end game."

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