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United Helpers introduces for-profit venture

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CANTON — A home-grown company with a knack for innovation and community service is rolling out a new subsidiary.

United Helpers introduced its first for-profit venture: Sparx, a business development and management firm.

The parent organization, United Helpers Management Co., is best known for nonprofit work administering home health, residential, assisted-living, rehabilitation and day-care services. With Sparx, United Helpers will enter the economic development field.

“We think the for-profit company is a more nimble organization,” said Stephen E. Knight, United Helpers Chief Executive Officer. “We’re looking at things other than health care.”

Sparx is the company’s first nonhealth-oriented enterprise and will focus on getting the north country’s stagnant economy moving, said Mr. Knight.

“If you look at the mechanisms for creating jobs, we think we can be a part of it,” he said. “We’ve come to the conclusion that jobs are a social issue, and we’re determined that we’re going to be part of the solution.”

The new company will operate out of the old Community Bank building at 85-91 Main St. in Canton, said Mr. Knight.

“We have things going on in Canton and we want to keep things moving,” he said. “The building is already under renovation. We want a base for Sparx.”

Mr. Knight wouldn’t say how much the property cost.

Joining Sparx in the offices will be some services formerly housed at the Cedars Nursing Home in Oswegatchie.

“Some countywide offices will move to Canton,” he said, adding it wasn’t determined yet which ones would be moving.

Mr. Knight said a total of 10-15 jobs would shift from Oswegatchie to Canton.

One of Sparx’s first projects is to develop a regional food hub in the Canton area, said Mr. Knight. To that end, Sparx plans to apply for a grant under the New York State Consolidated Funding Application process jointly with North Country Pastured, Northern Grown Food Co-op, GardenShare and Cornell Cooperative Extension.

“One of our region’s strengths is agriculture, that is why we want to focus on a food hub,” he said. “The CFA is a huge undertaking, and we’ll talk more about it in the future.”

Sparx also will focus on fostering collaborations between local businesses and agencies, said Mr. Knight.

“Wherever we can partner and collaborate, we should try to,” he said. “We’re looking for new businesses to partner with or to start up with Sparx.”

Part of the new company’s purpose will be to assist new entrepreneurs with capital and knowledge to build small, local companies.

“Sparx will be our vehicle for job creation,” he said. “Existing small businesses create the lion’s share of new jobs, and we look forward to partnering with them in that process.”

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