For the week of July 1 thru July 7, 1998  

Chamber, cities give technology a boost

Web site for high-tech businesses planned

Express Staff Writer

After 40 years as an engineer designing industrial and consumer products at a big company, Gabe Cherian decided almost two years ago to "hang out [his] shingle" and go into business for himself.

He works out of his home, with only a computer and a modem for company. Recently, when Cherian wanted to hire someone to do part-time drafting work, he had trouble finding help. He said it wasn’t that engineers weren’t out there, but rather that he didn’t know how to find them without advertising in the newspaper.

This will hopefully change, however, when the Sun Valley Technology Committee uses a $10,000 US West Foundation grant to build a Web site to link members of a growing technology industry in the Wood River Valley to outside businesses, as well as to each other.

The US West Foundation grant was awarded in December to the city of Ketchum in partnership with the city of Sun Valley, the Sun Valley/Ketchum Chamber of Commerce and College of Southern Idaho.

The grant is to be used to create a detailed inventory of community resources for technology businesses, to promote and market these businesses on a Web site and to educate businesses through a technology fair.

"We’re trying to respond to a variety of needs," said Diane Cordes, director of operations and finance for the chamber. "Tourism is still our number-one priority, but in the last two years we’ve become aware of an increase in technology businesses. We want to work with these businesses and people who hope to start them."

Ten computer-service businesses are listed with the chamber of commerce, not including existing major employers such as Marketron and Power Engineers. This number also doesn’t take into account perhaps dozens of self-employed consultants and engineers such as Cherian.

Technology consultants Barbara Campbell and Susan Preston, who claim Boeing and NASA among their list of clients, will begin this week to interview members of the community for input on what a chamber-maintained Web site should contain.

Besides an inventory of resumes, other ideas for a Web site include lists of projects seeking capital investments and internships for students.

The idea of a "virtual incubator" for technology businesses had support among those present at the Technology Committee meeting on Monday.

"It will be an easier way to contact third parties, whether they are employers, employees, consultants or investors," said Cherian. "It’s a way to make people find each other."

The technology committee also hopes to encourage networking with a monthly series of "entrepreneurial breakfasts." The first breakfast will be at 8 a.m. July 30 at the Cottonwood Deli.

"We need a group of people to communicate; we need a critical mass," said state Rep. Wendy Jaquet, who is also a former executive director of the chamber of commerce. "We have new ideas every time we talk."

"Even if people don’t come to the breakfasts, the Web site will be a way for people to at least chat with one another," Jaquet said.

Campbell and Preston hope to finalize their plans for a Web site by early fall.


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