Program to benefit businesses and students

Grant of $1.3 million supports three-county effort

PORT ANGELES — Applications from students interested in receiving bookkeeping training through a new grant-funded program administered by the Clallam Economic Development Council continue to pour into its website, surprising the program’s partners and having them reconsider how to allocate its funds.

Over the first three days the Olympic Peninsula Small Business Boost program began accepting applications on its website, 234 people applied to be one of 20 chosen to receive free bookkeeping classes, a monthly stipend and a laptop computer.

“We’d had such a huge demand which we didn’t anticipate,” said Clallam EDC Executive Director Colleen McAleer on Wednesday during her weekly Coffee with Colleen meeting on Zoom.

“We didn’t know if we’d have a solid 20.”

The program is a partnership among the Clallam EDC, EDC Team Jefferson and Greater Grays Harbor Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Council, and Peninsula and Grays Harbor colleges.

It is supported by a $1.3 million Small Business Innovation Fund grant from the Washington State Department of Commerce and comes out of $34.5 million in ARPA funding dedicated to spurring small business innovation, recovery and growth in rural and underserved areas around the state.

The program was one of 24 cities, economic development and alternative development organizations awarded grants out of 120 applicants.

In an interview Tuesday, Suzanne Ames, president of Peninsula College whose business faculty will teach the program’s bookkeeping, accounting and QuickBooks courses, called the response to the program “amazing.”

“No one expected that, but it says a lot to me about the fact that there really is a demand for training that leads to a job,” Ames said.

“It’s a very rare program in all of the ways that it supports students and it tells me that that’s the model that works to get people to come out and get training for these jobs that are so needed in our community.”

Peninsula College will offer the program to Clallam and Jefferson county residents, while Grays Harbor College will offer the same program to residents of that county. The partners will meet sometime next week to review the applicants and determine how to apportion students to the two colleges.

Along with bookkeeping training, Olympic Peninsula Small Business Boost will offer free professional bookkeeping, marketing and legal services for small businesses in Clallam, Jefferson and Grays Harbor counties. The latter two components have not been as successful in attracting applicants, McAleer said.

“There have been 22 small business applications and in the grant we proposed that between the three counties we would help 250 businesses,” she said.

Businesses needing bookkeeping support might request assistance in getting set up with QuickBooks or having their QuickBooks accounts reviewed.

Those seeking marketing support can receive help in website development, creating videos, graphic design or branding. A business can ask for legal services such as help setting up an LLC or corporation, creating bylaws and sales agreements, or developing a business plan.

Local marketing professionals and attorneys interested in delivering support services through Olympic Small Business Boost must respond to a request for proposal (RFP) that will be available next week, McAleer said.

Bookkeeping applicants who are selected for the program will start their full-time study starting in January. The online classes are pre-recorded, which provides flexibility for students to access lectures, materials and assignments on their own time.

Students will receive a monthly $1,000 stipend, a laptop computer loaded with MS Office and QuickBook that they will be able to keep after successful completion of the course, be provided with an internship at a small business requesting bookkeeping support for which they will be paid $50 an hour and have available to them technical support from the colleges.

The popularity of the bookkeeping training has led the Olympic Peninsula Small Business Boost partners to examine how they might reallocate the funds; they have been working with the Department of Commerce on how that might be done.

“We are considering putting more money towards the bookkeeping program so we can increase the number of bookkeepers from 20 t0 maybe 30 or 35,” McAleer said.“But that means we have to reduce the amount of contract support that we would provide to the legal and marketing piece of it.”

All elements of Olympic Peninsula Small Business Boost — from marketing the program to bookkeeper training to professional services provided by marketers and attorneys — will be paid through the Department of Commerce grant.

Bookkeeping training and professional marketing and legal services support run from January through May 31; bookkeeping services provided by the newly trained bookkeepers will run from April through May 31.

Selection of bookkeeping students and professional service providers will take place by the end of the year. Bookkeeping students must pay any income and/or business taxes on their stipend and income from their internship.

Businesses that have questions about receiving or providing professional services should contact Ted Hennessy, Olympic Peninsula Small Business Boost Program manager, at thennessy@clallam.org.

Applications for bookkeeper training must be submitted by Dec. 15 at: tinyurl.com/OPBookkeeperBoost

Applications for small business bookkeeping, legal or marketing support must be submitted by Dec. 31 at tinyurl.com/ytkw52pd

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Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at Paula.Hunt@soundpublishing.com.

Terry Ward, publisher of the Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum, is vice chair of the Clallam County Economic Development Corp. board of directors.

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