CALAIS _ A collaboration between the Sunrise County Economic Council (SCEC) and Washington County Community College (WCCC) has been a winning combination that has benefitted individuals and businesses in Washington County for two decades.
The most recent partnership led to a two-day ServSafe certification class at the college that involved WCCC’s Culinary Arts Instructor Weibley Dean. To date, more than 47 businesses have participated in the workshops that began in 2011 after the state passed a law that mandated that food establishments have a food protection manager on staff.
“The Maine Woods Tourism Training Initiative gave us some funding to provide training for tourism-related businesses in Washington County,” SCEC Assistant Director Jennifer Peters said, “ServSafe seemed like the perfect fit. Local eateries have told us that they just don’t have the time to travel to Bangor, or the resources to send staff that far away for training. WCCC has really stepped up to the plate and helped out by providing hands-on local training at less cost to the small businessperson.”
Recently, the Boston Foundation provided grant funds for ServSafe participants. “So with the Maine Woods Tourism Training Initiative and now the Boston Foundation we have been able to give $50 off the cost of the training for folks in Washington County,” Peters added.
WCCC President Bill Cassidy said that the community college was glad it could assist. “Sunrise County Economic Council works diligently to enhance the economic environment and region and we here at WCCC recognize their role and plan to assist wherever possible.”
Sunrise County Economic Council is a private non-profit organization that initiates and facilitates the creation of prosperity and jobs in Washington County. Founded in 1993, SCEC works with area nonprofits, state and local government, and Down East Maine’s diverse business community.
In addition to working with WCCC, Peters said the Council also has teamed up with the University of Maine at Machias to offer trainings including Social Media and QuickBooks. Recently, Peters said that SCEC, working with other agencies, completed a six-part training session geared toward the county’s tourism industry. She said that participants learned the ins and outs of working with other tourism businesses to create destination packages. The training sessions included everything from fundamentals of marketing to how to work cooperatively with another business or businesses. In addition, the workshop included a one-on –one meeting with businesses counselors who offered individual counseling to business owners.
SCEC Communications Manager Will Tuell said that 2012 was a busy year for training as 130 people took advantage of workshops offered by the nonprofit group, logging over 1200 hours in the classroom.
Although summer is not yet here, the two already are planning for the fall. Peters said there has been a request for a Regional Destination Workshop and SCEC hopes to add a Corporate Identity Theft Workshop geared toward small businesses.
In addition to their own programming, SCEC also works with the Northern Maine Development Commission (NMDC) in Aroostook County to expand access to workshops in both counties.
“Generally when we do something with NMDC we offer access at WCCC in Calais and at the Career Center or UMM in Machias,” Peters said. “That is another good way to pull in different folks.”
Recently, the agency conducted a survey that included a component on training for business owners and employees. Peters said SCEC is in the process of analyzing data from that survey and they plan to develop workshops to meet those needs.
Tuell said their goal is to be sensitive to what businesses need to be a success. Peters agreed. “A lot of what we do is just to try help coordinate and market,” she said.
President Cassidy noted that a lot of great things have come out of the Council. “They are making a difference by helping our local businesses and we here at WCCC are committed to doing our part to assist business and industry in Washington County,” he said.
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