STANTON - Small businesses dreamers and owners have a new ally in Montcalm County.
The Montcalm Alliance has hired a veteran of Casair and Electrolux to fill the grant-funded position of entrepreneurial resource coordinator.
Richard “Rich” Wenger, 56, of Stanton, will start his new job next week.
“I’m extremely enthusiastic about turning the local economy around and, in particular, job creation,” Wenger said. “I’m very excited about trying to incubate small businesses and small business ideas because I believe in community.”
The Montcalm Alliance was awarded a $104,000 grant in September for an entrepreneurial resource coordinator. Wenger’s part-time position will be funded through Sept. 30 with a salary of about $30,000.
The grant was part of the Regional Entrepreneurial Collaborative grants funded through the Department of Labor & Economic Growth’s No Worker Left Behind program. It is designed help prepare entrepreneurs for business startups and establish entrepreneurial support systems.
The grant was primarily written by Montcalm Alliance Executive Director Franz Mogdis. The Montcalm Alliance received about two dozen applications for the job, narrowed those down to three finalists and unanimously agreed to choose Wenger for the job, according to Mogdis.
“Rich stood out as the best candidate,” Mogdis said. “He knows the county and he knows a lot of people from the work he’s been doing.
He said Wenger will spend much of his time initially meeting with a lot of people.
“He’s going to familiarize himself as quickly as possible with what other people are doing to assist people who are looking to start a business or to assist small businesses that need help in terms of growing,” Mogdis said.
“My initial goal is engagement,” he said. “We need to identify who we can go out there and touch and we need to engage them. It’s all about mentoring and following through and tracking results.”
A 1972 graduate of Greenville High School, Wenger worked for Electrolux in Greenville from 1981 to 1998 as supervisor of the material handling department, as well as internal materials expediter.
Wenger started his own consulting company, Integrative Computer Services, in 1987. He earned his associate’s degree in business data processing at Montcalm Community College in 1990.
Wenger has worked for Crystal Automation Systems, also known as Casair, in Stanton since 2002. He designed and wrote the financial analysis for Casair’s successful $444,000 broadband grant in 2004. He also designed and wrote all financial aspects of Casair’s successful $26 million broadband grant and loan in 2010.
Wenger is resigning from his controller duties at Casair to accept the Montcalm Alliance position.
“I believe I have a unique understanding of the local economic climate and the skills necessary to effect change in that environment,” he said. “I have a great deal of enthusiasm about this project. I want to start drawing in some some folks with ideas.
Anyone with ideas or questions about small businesses in Montcalm County is encouraged to call Wenger at his office with the Montcalm Area Intermediate School District in Stanton at (989) 831-5261.
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This article was published in the Daily News on 1-29-2011.