ELY — The first session of a new program aimed to help entrepreneurs and businesses in Ely and surrounding communities will hatch today.

Randy Back, of the Northeast Office of Job Training, will speak on workforce solutions, including on-the-job training and internships, at 9 a.m. at Frandsen Bank & Trust of Ely.

The year will continue with monthly meetings, business development classes, and tours of area businesses.

It’s all part of the new Northwoods Business Incubator, said Eva Sebesta, executive director of the Ely Chamber of Commerce. As the chamber has expanded, it has sought to fill in gaps by “providing resources and services to the business community,” she said.

The program is designed to assist current business owners, businesses looking to expand and “folks thinking of starting up a business who don’t know where to start,” Sebesta said.

While Ely is “at the end of the road,” there are many resources and programs available to businesses and entrepreneurs in remote locations, she added. The Northwoods Business Incubator will explore available tools and resources.

“We have a mix of folks involved,” including people who have launched businesses in the past several years who will share their experiences, challenges and the services they used, Sebesta said.

The program is geared toward businesses, but community members interested in topics are welcome to attend meetings.

“We will have tours of area businesses,” Sebesta added. “Some of those businesses have had recent expansions and will talk about doing expansions.” Besides, she said, “it’s fun to see the inner workings of other businesses.”

Meeting will run monthly through April, break for the summer, and resume in October.

Upcoming sessions include:

• Feb. 20: Sandi Larson from the Entrepreneur Fund will discuss the Women’s Business Alliance and a variety of Entrepreneur Fund programs. It will begin at 9 a.m. at Frandsen Bank & Trust of Ely.

• March 19: Curt Walczak from the Northeast Minnesota Small Business Development Center will lead a class on creating do-it-yourself websites and search engine optimization for small businesses.

• April 16: Betsy Olivanti of the Northeast Minnesota Small Business Development Center will present, “Developing Financial Projections.”

Those seeking support and resources outside of the monthly meetings are welcome to contact the Ely chamber, where resource information is available free of charge.

“We are pretty excited about it,” Sebesta said of the Northwoods Business Incubator. “We want to help develop the business community. There are a lot of great programs out there.”

Businesses interested in hosting or participating in a meeting can contact the chamber office at: 218-365-6123 or director@ely.org. Seating is limited, and reservations for the sessions are requested.

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