ROCK ISLAND Continuing to deliver on his Opportunity Returns promise to promote entrepreneurship and innovation in the Northwest region, Governor Rod Blagojevich today announced the formation of the Northwest Region Entrepreneurship Center. The new center is receiving $300,000 in funding from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), who will also administer the initiative. The Entrepreneurship Center Network will serve the Northwest region of Illinois that includes Bureau, Carroll, Henry, Jo Daviess, LaSalle, Lee, Mercer, Putnam, Rock Island and Whiteside Counties. Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Director Jack Lavin made the announcement at the Quad City Development Group in Rock Island, where the center will be located.
“Entrepreneurial activity has become the most important job growth engine of the national economy, and we’re determined to do everything we possibly can to give entrepreneurs the resources they need to be successful and help their businesses thrive. The Northwest Region Entrepreneurship Center will play a vital role in accomplishing this goal and in building a more vibrant and prosperous local economy,” Governor Blagojevich said.
The Northwest Region Entrepreneurship Center (NWREC) is designed to act as a new, regional hub that will coordinate all small business development, entrepreneurship training and entrepreneurship development activity in the Northwest Illinois region, and will provide entrepreneurs with the tools they need to make their ventures successful. The centers will build on the existing infrastructure of the Small Business Development Center Network, the Illinois Technology Enterprise Center Network, and the Manufacturing Extension Center Network. The Quad City Development Group will serve as the fiscal agent for the NWREC.
The NWREC will look at services currently being provided in the Northwest region and identify ways to enhance those services while not duplicating ongoing efforts. The NWREC will work with the new Iowa New Venture Center, small business development centers, economic development organizations, chambers of commerce and business partners throughout the region to coordinate all available small business services and programs, and provide targeted, accelerated support to companies with high growth potential.
“Governor Blagojevich and I realize that the Northwest region has tremendous economic growth potential. To fully realize this potential, it is critical that we do everything we possibly can to create a comprehensive support system for our entrepreneurs and small businesses. The e-center will help ensure that there are no gaps in this support system and act as a vital resource in accomplishing our shared goal of creating quality jobs and fostering sustained economic growth,” State Senator Denny Jacobs (D-Moline) said.
Among the many specialized resources the entrepreneurship center will offer is a financial award program to assist entrepreneurs or small businesses with obtaining professional services for comprehensive business plan assistance, evaluation of a proposed start up or expansion, or other accelerated support purposes. Award funding will be determined based on the potential for successful achievement of a significant business milestone for client firms. Maximum funding per award is up to $5,000 of eligible project costs. Applicants are required to provide a cash match of 100% of the award amount. Applications will be awarded based on their display of project viability, growth potential, public purpose or other merit-based factors.
“The Northwest Region Entrepreneurship Center will play a critical role in helping young firms with high growth potential develop into economically viable and sustainable companies that will grow and create Illinois jobs. We’ve done our homework in studying the strengths and challenges of growing a small business in the Northwest region, and this e-center is designed to offer targeted services most in need by local entrepreneurs, including access to capital, markets, networks, and technology,” DCEO Director Jack Lavin said.
“Governor Blagojevich understands the vital role entrepreneurs and small businesses play in creating jobs and building more wealth in our local economy. The partnership we’re announcing today is a great match of expertise, resources, and commitment and is a wonderful investment in the economic vitality of Northwestern Illinois,” Quad City Development Group President Thom Hart said.
The Opportunity Returns regional economic development plan is the most aggressive, comprehensive approach to creating jobs in Illinois’ history. Since a one-size-fits-all approach to economic development just doesn’t work, Governor Blagojevich has divided the state into 10 regions – finding areas with common economic strengths and needs, and developing a plan with specific actions for each region. This grassroots effort for the Northwest region was the product of significant outreach over several months with business, civic and labor leaders, and elected officials. The more than 30 projects that the Governor announced last October for Northwestern Illinois are designed to be flexible and effective. This plan is tailored to deliver real results that local businesses will see, feel, and, hopefully, profit from.