Arlene Soto

Arlene Soto

Photo contributed by Arlene Soto

COOS BAY — After more than a decade, Arlene Soto is leaving the helm of Southwestern Oregon Community College’s Small Business Development Center.

She is being replaced by interim director Mary Loiselle until a permanent replacement is found.

“She has big shoes to fill,” Loiselle said.

The interim director said she’s known Soto for the last seven years she’s worked at the SBDC as business advisor and instructor.

“It is a loss to the community,” Loiselle said, “She has over 23 years of business experience in the SBDC.”

Soto is leaving to become the Director of Tillamook Bay Community College’s SBDC, a job she said will be exactly the same as what she’s doing now.

Before her tenure at SWOCC’s SBDC, Soto spent 13 years as the regional director at the Wyoming SBDC.

During her time in Coos Bay, Soto started the new business development grant program.

“It’s something that when I moved back to Oregon, we had done it in Wyoming and I brought it with me,” Soto said, “Its grassroots economic development.”

That program has helped businesses like Stillwagon Distillery, Bayside Coffee and Time Bomb Clothing Exchange get off the ground.

Soto said all of the people that have won the challenge are still in business.

Right now, Soto said there’s a committee reviewing this year’s applicants in advance of the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce’s economic outlook forum in December, when the winner is announced.

But Soto noted that the grant isn’t guaranteed every year.

“If we don’t get a good qualified business plan, the committee does not give the grant,” Soto said, “We use sponsors’ donations in a responsible way.”

Whether she’s in snowy Wyoming or on the rainy Oregon Coast, Soto said her goal is the same.

“My mission in life is to strengthen and support and entrepreneurial culture,” Soto said.

Loiselle said Soto has the ability to create synergistic relationships by bringing people together.

“She doesn’t look to make herself look good, she always looks at how she can help somebody else so they can be successful,” Loiselle said.

Despite the loss, Loiselle said she’s excited to continue working with clients. The SBDC’s clients are spread across Coos, Curry and Western Douglas Counties.

“My hope is to continue to maintain the quality of service that we have always provided,” Loiselle said.

The shoes may be big, but Loiselle said she’s prepared to fill them.

“She makes sure that the people she works with are really well trained so they can walk into her shoes,” Loiselle said.

There will be a farewell party for Soto on Nov. 28 from 4 to 6 p.m. in room 207 of the Newmark Center on SWOCC’s campus.

Reach Saphara Harrell at (541) 269-1222 ext. 239 or by email at saphara.harrell@theworldlink.com

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