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John Alberts of Pleasant View retired from the Navy at age 49. But an innovative program at Weber State College helped him to launch a new career as a telecommunications designer and consultant.

Alberts is one of many who have taken advantage of an eight-week training course that helps veterans get started in their own small businesses. The course is offered by the WSC Small Business Development Center.The WSC program is part of a $125,000 contract to provide training to any veteran thinking of starting a small business or currently operating his own enterprise.

The program, known as Veterans Entrepreneur Training or VETS, was awarded through the American Legion and is funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration, said Roger Lee, coordinator of the proj-ect and a member of Weber State's Small Business Development Center.

"This is the only program of its kind for veterans in the state. We hope to be able to expand the next program to include everyone," Lee said.

Participants meet weeknights from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., and attend Saturday workshops that feature presentations by experts on a wide variety of topics related to starting and maintaining a small business.

"This is a bit risky," said Alberts. "I feel apprehensive about doing this on my own, but the (veterans) program has already helped me to avoid some of the pitfalls."

Participants in the program receive a "how to" and evaluation manual, two software programs designed to establish and evaluate a small business, access to a video disk interactive program, classroom instruction and individual consultations.

"We give them everything they need to succeed - except money. And we hope to direct them into the proper money channels," Lee said.

According to the Utah Department of Commerce, 8,815 new small businesses have started to date in 1989 in Utah. Last year's total reached 9,112.