CODY - An Internet start-up company that employs Wyoming teachers to tutor Asian students learning English is opening a Cody office this week, continuing its trend of steady growth since February.
Reversing the typical pattern of high-tech companies launching in larger cities and branching out to smaller communities, Eleutian Technology started in Ten Sleep and expanded to Powell, Lovell and Worland before opening a Cody branch.
"One of the reasons we did it that way is we wanted to see if we could make it work in a smaller town," said Brent Stanger, vice president of operations for Eleutian.
Stanger said the company's growth since the launch of its commercial service required steady recruitment but hasn't demanded expansion to Cody until now.
More than 100 Eleutian instructors from towns across the Bighorn Basin, all certified teachers, use video cameras and Web-based software over high-speed Internet connections to tutor English language students in Korea, China and Japan.
Teachers earn $15 per hour working flexible, part-time hours in the early morning or late evening, and typically they focus on assisting students with conversation and pronunciation.
The Cody learning center, located in the Park County Complex, opened Monday with four work stations hooked up to fiber optic connections. It has room to expand to 20 stations, accommodating a total of 60 teachers, Stanger said.
"The company currently has 10 teachers from Cody who are already trained and teaching. They've been teaching out of the Powell office until now and are excited not to have to make the commute," said Anne Bleicher, manager of teacher operations for Eleutian.
The company plans to hire 25 teachers in Cody by the end of the year, adding an additional 35 over the course of 2008.
Stanger said the company also has been meeting with officials in Burlington, Basin and Thermopolis about potential plans for centers in those towns early next year.
Eleutian will expand its teacher recruitment campaign next year to media outlets in Sheridan, Buffalo and Casper, he said.
The company has focused on developing offices in small communities in Wyoming because of a combination of good telecommunications infrastructure in the Bighorn Basin, responsive teachers and an attractive business climate, Stanger said.
Eleutian is based in Ten Sleep, where most of its managers live, and "we are all mostly from small towns, so we enjoy that lifestyle and the people that live in small towns," Stanger said.
Although the company plans to continue recruiting in Wyoming through 2008, continued growth will eventually mean expanding into Denver, Boise or Salt Lake City, he said.
But economic development in those cities often targets big companies, compared with Wyoming's smaller focus.
"The state of Wyoming has been very supportive with training grants. It has the best training-grant program in the country, along with a favorable personal and business tax situation," Stanger said.
Grants from the Wyoming Business Council have helped the company advertise for and train new employees, he said. Teachers get 33 hours of training before they work with paying students.
The town of Lovell agreed to pay the rent for 10 months for Main Street office space for Eleutian and is ready to sponsor a state grant application for permanent space with high-speed data lines, said Town Administrator Bart Grant.
Stanger said each Eleutian office has a full-time manager who is paid approximately $30,000 a year, and the company may experiment with employing more teachers full time.
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