a student walking on campus
Sep 25, 2023
Flathead Beacon

Flathead Valley Community College Receives $4 million for Future Entrepreneurship Center

By Denali Sagner

Kalispell businessman Paul Wachholz has donated $4 million to Flathead Valley Community College (FVCC) to support the development of an entrepreneurship center at the college’s Kalispell campus. 

“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,” FVCC President Jane Karas said in a Sept. 25 press release. “As with Paul’s support of [the Paul D. Wachholz College Center], this gift will change the lives of our students and offer new opportunities to our growing community.” 

According to the press release, Wachholz aims to “provide a place for students to develop the tools necessary for starting their own business or reaching their career goals” through the development of the entrepreneurship center. 

Wachholz currently works as a broker in the Kalispell office of PureWest Real Estate, specializing in residential development. His history in the business world is extensive, informing his desire to help FVCC students succeed as entrepreneurs. Wachholz started his career as a businessman at 9 years old in his hometown of Wilson, Kan., where he ran two newspaper routes and sold laundry soap. He even approached the local milkman about combining the delivery of newspapers with the dairy services. 

When his family moved to Sterling, Colo., Wachholz started a lawn mowing and yard care service. One of his clients was a professor at Northeastern Junior College named Dr. Collins who helped endow Wachholz with an appreciation for higher education. 

“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,” Wachholz said. “Meeting Dr. Collins set the stage for changing my life and my ability to earn degrees and be successful in business.” 

Wachholz moved to Kalispell in 1967 after nearly eight years in banking in Denver. In Kalispell, he founded a real estate firm Wachholz & Company, which grew to over 250 sales agents, and later started a beverage distributing company that evolved into Fun Beverage, Inc., which he owned for 44 years. Wachholz went on to sell the real estate and beverage companies before becoming a broker with PureWest. 

Wachholz has been named Kalispell Businessman of the Year, and served as the president of the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce and the Kalispell Development Corporation. 

The entrepreneurship center will not be Wachholz’s first major contribution to FVCC. The local businessman in 2018 donated $4 million for what would become the Paul D. Wachholz College Center, a state-of-the-art campus building that includes a 1,104-seat performing arts center, dual court gymnasium, music practice rooms, art gallery, outdoor amphitheater and fitness center. The Wachholz College Center hosted its debut concert and art exhibition last fall. The center has hosted a number of high-profile performers and guests since its opening last November. FVCC in September announced that world-famous virtuoso cellist Yo-Yo Ma will perform at the college center in August 2024.

FVCC in the press release applauded the donations from Wachholz and others that have made it possible for the community to “take advantage of a full line up of acclaimed performances, speaker series, art exhibitions and more right here in Kalispell.” 

“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 said. “An entrepreneurial education will lead people to be competitive and create new opportunities that wouldn’t ordinarily exist.” 

Wachholz, who is currently 86, said that he hopes to continue to learn and grow in the years to come. 

“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,” he said.