BARSTOW — Paul Courtney started his Center For Entrepreneurs project with a vision — creating a hub for education, employment and business services, all within reach of local residents.

That vision got closer to reality during a ribbon cutting for the Barstow Area Center for Entrepreneurs, or ecBarstow, on June 20 that kicked off phase 2 of the three-phase project.

Courtney initially launched the project as part of his doctorate capstone. But he’s also been motivated by a fervent desire to bring much-needed educational and employment services to the Barstow community, especially for young students.

“Everything we do is about student enhancement,” Courtney said during a phone interview Thursday, as the gregarious businessman attended an entrepreneurial conference in Boston. He mentioned how ideas shared there can be implemented in Barstow — just one of the many ways Courtney strives to invest in his community.

“There’s never been anything like this in San Bernardino County,” Courtney said.

Born and raised in Barstow, Courtney has seen firsthand how education can transform someone’s life. He now hopes to bring this transformative power to the community through ecBarstow.

“One of the challenges I ran into when establishing the center was that the community didn’t really place much of a value on education,” Courtney said. “Students are put in a difficult position where you either choose school or employment, and that’s just not right.”

With ecBarstow, many of these same students won’t be forced to make a choice. Courtney set a condition that anyone employed at the center must either be a student or have just finished school. As of mid-June, the center employs seven students, including a high school student and a college student completing coursework for her master’s degree.

“She is doing her 80-hour internship for her master’s at ecBarstow, which makes me really proud that we’re being recognized,” Courtney said.

June 20’s ribbon cutting was an opportunity to launch the center’s internship program as well its internet cafe, giving residents wider access to the internet. The center also welcomed SmarTeks, a local cell phone sales and repair business, which recently moved one of their two stores to ecBarstow.

The center already boasts classrooms, a computer center, and several office spaces for businesses, according to a previous Desert Dispatch report. Services provided include tutoring, financial planning, business training, and assistance in completing resumes, job applications and educational forms.

Courtney also mentioned the center’s “Errands R Us” program, which consists of employees running business, personal and professional errands for people. Expansion plans include a corner market and a farmers market.

But Courtney and his team aren't through — he said the center plans on providing OSHA classes starting this fall, as well as First Aid and CPR certification classes. Various “educational consulting” classes will be offered, with a class schedule expected to be ready by the center’s phase 3 kickoff on Oct. 11, Courtney’s mother’s birthday.

“Barstow is a community where people struggle to believe that they deserve the best life possible,” Courtney said. “But you can have the best life possible in Barstow, and that’s the goal of the center. We’re living proof.”

Visit ecbarstow.com for more information on the Barstow Area Center for Entrepreneurs.

Paola Baker may be reached at 760-955-5332 or PBaker@VVDailyPress.com. Follow her on Twitter at @DP_PaolaBaker.