Eleutian - The Bridge to Globalization

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Oct 1, 2008

Wyoming Firm Exports English

Kent Holiday never planned for the small town of Ten Sleep to be the headquarters for his business, Eleutian Technology. But it's been a smart move for the company that now has offices in seven other Wyoming communities serving thousands of clients in Asia.

'Ten Sleep will always be our headquarters,' Holiday said. 'That's where we started and that's where we will always be.'

For 15 years, Holiday had worked in Asia as a manager in multinational telecommunication firms.

Living abroad, he realized people in non-English speaking countries spent a fortune and many years trying to learn English, but they were often unable to obtain effective English communication skills.

To him, the solution was E-learning, whereby native English speakers in the U.S. would teach English through telecommunications to people in other countries.

His plan was to set up an Internet-based communication company near a college in Utah and use college students as teachers. His wife planned to stay with her family in Ten Sleep while he packed up in Korea.

In December 2005, Holiday visited Ten Sleep to pick up his family and transfer his two daughters to a Utah school.

But the Ten Sleep school principal convinced him to stay; if the Ten Sleep school lost two more students, it might be forced to close.

So it was that Ten Sleep became the headquarters of Eleutian Technology in early 2006, hiring two teachers at the local school to teach English courses.

'We changed our company model. We thought if we can get certified rural teachers that is even better than using college students,' Holiday said. 'The quality is going to be a lot higher.'

The business combines state-of-the-art multimedia ESL software and Internet video conferencing technology to teach conversational English to its customers in Korea, Japan and China.

Before long, the business began growing beyond Ten Sleep.

Now, just a little more than two years since start-up, Eleutian Technologies also has offices in Cody, Lovell, Worland, Greybull and Burlington, and opened a site in Sheridan in August.

'We can go pretty much into any town and offer multiple jobs,' Holiday said. 'It's 100 percent export. It's bringing new money back into the communities, into the state.'

Finding employees hasn't been difficult. Misty Rios, teacher/manager at Sheridan's Eleutian Technology, said they have trained one teacher and 13 teachers are ready for training that will start in October in conjunction with Sheridan College. Forty-five more applicants will soon be interviewed. The Sheridan office hopes to employ 50 teachers by the end of the year and 200 by the end of 2009.

The company is exactly the type of industry with strong global perspectives Sheridan wants to attract, said Philippe Chino, CEO and president of Forward Sheridan, the economic development organization for Sheridan County.

'They are starting small but will continue to grow,' Chino said.

Now employing more than 200 teachers statewide, Holiday expects the company will continue to grow in Wyoming and possibly expand into neighboring states.

In two years, Holiday hopes to have 5,000 teachers employed, 10,000 in four to five years and up to 20,000 in 10 years.

A demanding business

While the majority of Eleutian's customers are Korean, the company plans to expand to other markets, such as China and Japan, where interest in English is strong.

'While kids in American go to school and then go home, or play soccer or play sports, it's different in Asia,' Holiday said. 'In Korea, kids go to school and then they go to an institution and learn math, science and English until 10 p.m. at night."

Since more than 60 percent of major corporations in Korea use English in day-to-day operations, Holiday said there is high demand for business executives who speak English.

'Our students range from those in kindergarten to executives as Hyundai,' he said.

Eleutian's teachers, who are typically former and current public school teachers and university students, are required to complete an additional 33 hours of specialized training before they work with Eleutian Technology students.

As the Sheridan office hires teachers, Rios said at minimum, a substitute teaching certificate is required.

But because some students only require teachers that are native English speakers, Rios said some classes may only require teachers that have a GED or high school diploma.

Holiday said teachers have not been hard to find. 'A lot of rancher's wives and stay-at-home moms are not undereducated people,' he said. 'A lot of them are very educated.'

The company also has offices in Seattle, Wash., and Korea. Holiday wants to start up a training center near a college.

Hiring college students who are studying education or English could be creating his future work force, Holiday said. Such people could be offered permanent jobs upon graduation.

'It would attract young families to come to Wyoming,' Holiday said. 'Maybe we can be one of the agents for change for saving rural America.'