We educate and advocate for small business so that local entrepreneurs receive the information they need to launch and expand their business.
As the world moves into a post-pandemic reality, the needs of businesses have shifted and will continue to evolve as the ripple effect of the pandemic is felt. The West Center team stands ready to meet the challenges as they arise and to collaborate on being a building block in a vibrant rural economic region.
Remote, Not Out of Touch
As the third CEO for this now well established northern rural region institution, Mary Anne Petrillo took a fresh look at the future path of West Center. Her years of experience in the Silicon Valley tech world enabled her to re-envision how West Center could expand its mission to serve more in the community. West Company became West Business Development Center and, building on its history, it now prepares entrepreneurs to adapt to rapid technology shifts, a mobile workforce, and the growth of customization.
Moving On Up
By 1999 when CEO Pamela Patterson assumed the role, big economic changes had landed hard on Mendocino County. Pamela’s goal was to make sure that West Company would be able to deliver business counseling services to the entire community in need, including women-owned businesses. She created a solid platform to up-level training programs, and secured West Company as the host for a Small Business Development Center in addition to the Women’s Business Center, with services at no cost to county residents.
Riding the wave of women’s empowerment, Sheilah intuitively understood that any serious attack on rural poverty was destined to fail if women were ignored or overlooked in business. She was determined to ensure that self-employment was recognized as a strategy to help women earn money. Within the rural sector, where most of the world’s women are found, any economic development efforts must include the education and training of women. Statistics have shown that the education of women raises family incomes and provides economic stability in any community. Over the next decade, Sheilah and dedicated colleagues prowled the halls of local and federal government offices to bring awareness of the social innovations needed to bring about change.
In 1988, the James Irvine Foundation launched a Women’s Economic Development Initiative to address the needs of impoverished women. Their focus was to create self-sufficiency for low-to-moderate-income women through business ownership. Hearing about the initiative, the Ukiah Community Center convened meetings with more than two hundred women from Mendocino County. Their response was to create WEST (Women’s Economic Self Sufficiency Training). They successfully applied for and received a four-year grant, and Sheilah Rogers became the first Director of West Enterprise Center DBA WEST Company.