HAYWARD -- Alameda County is offering a free entrepreneur boot camp for anyone who has ever dreamed of opening a business or wants to increase sales.

Those who take part will get help applying to a business incubator program that includes a year's free retail rent.

The workshops will cover how to launch and operate a business, including developing a business plan, marketing, merchandising and getting funding.

"We're pretty excited to be able to offer this," said Bill Lambert, assistant director of Alameda County's economic and civic development department. "In areas of high unemployment, small business ownership offers a different type of opportunity."

Alameda County is sponsoring the series with Alameda County Small Business Development Center, a nonprofit group, in partnership with Kimco Realty. The company, which owns and operates retail centers throughout the country, runs a business incubator program that offers help to entrepreneurs.

"Alameda County is enthusiastic to support entrepreneurs with the education and resources they need to start businesses and create jobs," said county Supervisor Nate Miley.

The series begins June 12 with a reception and overview of the program at Creekside Center, 20966 Mission Blvd., Hayward.

The first training session, Successful Business Plans, will be 8:30 to 11 a.m. June 27 at the county Community Development office, 224 W. Winton Ave., Hayward.

On July 11, Retailing 101 will be covered from 8:30 to 11 a.m. at Hayward City Hall, second floor, 777 B. St.

The final session, Accessing Capital, will be 8:30 to 11 a.m. July 25 at the Winton Avenue office.

To register, go to Alameda County Small Business Development Center's website, www.acsbdc.org.

The sessions are open to everyone, and those interested do not have to attend all three, Lambert said.

"This boot camp will help aspiring business owners take the first step toward realizing their dreams," said Armand Vasquez, Kimco's western region president.

Kimco runs a program to support those wanting to launch their first retail venture called Kimco Entrepreneurs Year Start (KEYS). In addition to the year of free rent, those accepted into the program also are mentored by retail business counselors and are eligible for a four-year lease option after the first year.

Those interested in the KEYS program should submit a business plan by Sept. 6. Applications can be made online at KimcoKeys.com or by mail to Judith Briggs, 1621-B S. Melrose Drive, Vista, CA 92081.

Business plans can be submitted by anyone, not just those enrolled in the boot camp, Lambert said.