Monday, December 11, 2023

Kalispell businessman donates $4M for FVCC entrepreneurship center

| September 26, 2023 8:00 AM

Flathead Valley Community College received a $4 million donation from local businessman Paul Wachholz to support the college’s future entrepreneurship center on campus in Kalispell.

With his gift, Wachholz aims to provide a place for students to develop the tools necessary for starting their own businesses or reaching their career goals.

“I want to help people be successful and allow them the opportunity like I had early in my life. It can feel like you’re out there alone, so with a center like this, you won’t be. The sky is the limit,” Wachholz says.

Wachholz’ business ambitions started when he was 9 years old in his hometown of Wilson, Kansas. During his childhood he ran two newspaper routes and sold laundry soap. His eye for innovation started at this time when he approached the local milkman about combining the delivery of newspapers with the dairy service.

When the family moved to Sterling, Colorado, Wachholz’s business prowess continued as he started a lawn mowing and yard care service. One of his clients was in fact a Northeastern Junior College professor named Dr. Collins who emphasized the importance of higher education to him.

“Dr. Collins became a mentor and was instrumental in my education. I thought yard care was looking like a pretty great career as a teen making good money for that time, but Dr. Collins knew better and made sure I knew it,” says Wachholz. “Meeting Dr. Collins set the stage for changing my life and my ability to earn degrees and be successful in business.”

After nearly eight years as a banking vice president in Denver, Wachholz moved to Kalispell in 1967, retiring from banking in 1981. He then founded a real estate firm, Wachholz & Company, that grew to over 250 sales agents. But he did not stop there. He also started a beverage distributing company that evolved into Fun Beverage, Inc., which he owned for 44 years.

Wachholz went on to sell both his real estate firm and Fun Beverage and now works as a broker in the Kalispell office of PureWest Real Estate, specializing in residential development.

Over the years Wachholz’s business accomplishments and contributions to the Flathead Valley community have been celebrated. He was named Kalispell Businessman of the Year, Past President of the Kalispell Chamber, and Past President of the Kalispell Development Corporation.

“I learned the value of community colleges from my upbringing. The opportunity for success is a mutual partnership, and that’s exactly my thought with FVCC and this new entrepreneurship center,” Wachholz explains. “An entrepreneurial education will lead people to be competitive and create new opportunities that wouldn’t ordinarily exist.”

This is not his first contribution to the development of FVCC which will serve the community and its students. The Paul D. Wachholz College Center (WCC) on the FVCC campus in Kalispell opened its doors in November 2022 thanks to a previous transformational gift from Wachholz. The state-of-the-art center features a 1,014-seat performing arts center, a dual-court gymnasium, music practice rooms, an art gallery, an outdoor amphitheater and a fitness center.

Thanks to Wachholz and all the generous WCC donors, the community can take advantage of a full lineup of acclaimed performances, speaker series, art exhibitions and more right here in Kalispell.

“Paul has been a tremendous advocate of FVCC. We are grateful for his outstanding support of our students and their creative innovations with the new entrepreneurship center,” said FVCC President Jane Karas. “As with Paul’s support of WCC, this gift will change the lives of our students and offer new opportunities to our growing community.”

For Wachholz, there are always more ways to grow and things to learn, even at the age of 86.

“My personal wish is that I have many more years to live so I can do additional things like this. I’ve gotten more satisfaction from seeing the things FVCC does for northwest Montana and our community. It’s so important and I’ve enjoyed the trip.”

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