By Judy Castleberry

Business Columnist

The San Juan College Enterprise Center honored three graduating companies during the Incubation Celebration held recently. The three graduating companies were High Desert Valve, Jan Morgen Mediation and Mancos Door.

Congratulations to these companies for their hard work at the Enterprise Center and their continued success.

When most people think of graduation they think of individuals with funny hats and gowns clutching diplomas from a school or college. Graduation at the SJC Enterprise Center means that the businesses have participated in the business incubation program and successfully completed their time at the business incubator as a "start-up" business.

The goal of the SJC-Enterprise Center is to assist in growing businesses to the point where they are a self-sustaining part of the business community. The Incubation Celebration is an annual event to honor the graduates and others who have achieved success or supported the Enterprise Center.

Elite Energy Services was honored as the Business of the Year. Elite began at the Enterprise Center in 2008 and is owned by Billy Woods, Eldon Latham and Billy Long. After incubating for two years, they successfully moved out to the old Eagle Welding building on U.S. Highway 64. This year they expanded by purchasing the assets of two machine shops in order to machine parts for the equipment they service.

State Rep. Tom Taylor, R-Farmington, and Dr. James Henderson were recognized as "Champions of Business Incubation." The Enterprise Center owes its existence to these far-sighted men who first proposed the idea of a business incubator for the area. Their tireless efforts resulted in the Enterprise Center opening in 1999. They have continued to be champions of support since then.

The organization recognized as the Champion of Business Incubation was the San Juan College Continuing Learning Center. The CLC and the Enterprise Center work together each semester to provide community members with classes on topics such as "Marketing for Smarties" and starting a business.

This fall, the CLC paved the way for the Enterprise Center to offer classes at both SJC East and SJC West, allowing for even more outreach to the community.

Each year, the businesses at the Enterprise Center engage in a friendly competition over which business has achieved the most points in the 100 point system. This system is a measurement of activities such as establishing financial controls, marketing and attending trainings and coaching sessions which are a part of the business incubation process.

This year, first place went to Real Green Building Systems. Sonia Lukow CPA, LLC was second, and Cintigy Network came in third. Each was honored with a certificate and a small gift.

The keynote speaker was Aztec Mayor Sally Burbridge. Burbridge is also the chairwoman of Four Corners Economic Development and an entrepreneur. She talked about the attributes entrepreneurs need to succeed, using her days as a driver of a horse-drawn carriage in Durango as her example.

We appreciated the business and communities leaders who took time to attend this event during this busy time of the year. The Enterprise Center has received much support over the years. In turn, we are here to support people as they venture into the business world.

Judy Castleberry is interim director of the San Juan College Enterprise Center. She can be reached at castleberryj@sanjuancollege.edu.