Business is taking off at Fresno's newest passport place

March 11, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Travelling abroad and need a passport? Apparently, you're not alone. Several Fresno County offices are seeing a surge in applicants and one unlikely location is now looking to help meet the demand.

A college campus isn't the typical place to apply for or renew your passport, but Fresno State recognized an opportunity to raise revenue, support students and provide the public with an important service. It opened an office in the education building on campus in May, but it appears the program is just starting to take off.

Business is booming at Fresno's newest passport place.

"Our demand has exploded to be perfectly honest," said Global Operations Manager Russel Statham.

Last week, workers in the Continuing and Global Education Division processed about 150 passports. That's up from it's typical 25, making it a record breaking week.

"We're having lines out the door. We're having to essentially give people numbers to say pick a number and we'll call you," said Statham.

The reason? Only the County Clerk's office and three U.S. Post Offices in the city provide the service. Postmaster Eve Forrest said a full-time employee dedicated to passports recently resigned. That means many of the locations are short-staffed and workers are having to send spring and summer travelers to the college campus.

"A lot of time it's in a limited window or they're closed for lunch and they just don't have the staff to be able to handle them so they're essentially referring anyone that shows up to Fresno State," said Statham.

Workers said they don't mind the new boost in business.

"It's really nice working on campus. I can come in between classes and it's really cool too being able to interact with the community and seeing where everyone is travelling to," said student-employee Emily Hentschke.

For every passport that's processed the university gets $25. Money, Statham said, is reinvested back into Fresno State, providing the Division of Continuing and Global Education with funds for travel scholarships and students with more international opportunities.

"This really came out of the vision we had to internationalize our campus to support students travelling abroad as well as faculty and staff," said Statham. "Our University's plan for excellence calls for increased international activity in the community and at Fresno state so this was a way for us to do that. In addition it was also a way for us to generate revenue for the University, especially at this time with budget cuts we've been facing so severely."

It's also a way to provide students with jobs and customers with another option.

"I had planned to go to the U.S. Post office, but just found out about this," said Fresno State staff member Kathryn Tuckness. "My daughter and I are going to France in June. Thought we'd try it out and it was much simpler."

The passport place at Fresno State has two student-employees certified to process applications. It also has several full time workers. Statham said, the office may need to bring in one more person to handle the increase in business.

In the meantime, Postmaster Eve Forrest said, the U.S. Postal Office will continue processing applications and intends to replace it's full-time worker by the end of the week.

On Saturday, it held a passport fair in Fresno to celebrate International Passport Day and it processed dozens of applications.

Fresno State's passport office is open M-F from 9:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. For more information call 559-278-0333.


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