CHICAGOGov. Rod Blagojevich announced recently the launching of the Illinois Entrepreneurship Network (IEN) to help create jobs and high-growth businesses across Illinois. Throughout the state, small business owners looking to expand their companies can connect with business experts through local Entrepreneurship Centers and many other economic development centers supported by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO).
The first innovative effort of the network is a new IEN Web site, www.ienconnect.com, which features a free business needs assessment and a referral within 24 hours for personalized, face-to-face assistance. This Web site is yet another tool that makes it easier to cut through the red tape and increase business access to valuable state resources; Blagojevich recently announced www.business.Illinois.gov in his State of the State address in February to help businesses find the information they need from state government all in one place.
Entrepreneurs, who call toll-free to the IEN information center (800-252-2923), can also connect with service representatives who will assess their business concerns and direct them to the local resources that best meets their needs.
State Sen. Arthur Wilhelmi (D-Crest Hill) said: There certainly is no shortage of hardworking people or viable business ideas across Illinois. The mission of the Illinois Entrepreneurship Network is to provide entrepreneurs with the critical resources needed to convert those good ideas into thriving businesses, and, by doing so, convert the economic promise of Illinois into greater prosperity.
From Carbondale to Champaign to Chicago, Gov. Blagojevich has dedicated more than $3 million to open 13 entrepreneurship centers statewide to coordinate all small business development activity. The Entrepreneurship Network also includes a partnership with economic development centers across Illinois funded by DCEO, including the Small Business Environmental Assistance program, Small Business Development Centers (SBDC), Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTAC), International Trade Centers (ITC), NAFTA Opportunity Centers (NOC) and Illinois Manufacturing Extension Centers (IMEC).
State Rep. Marlow Colvin (D-Chicago) said:The Illinois Entrepreneurship Network plays a vital role in helping ensure that entrepreneurs and small businesses have the access to capital, networks and new markets that are essential to commercializing technology and allowing young ventures to succeed in the marketplace. Gov. Blagojevich continues to make the kinds of investments that are crucial to sparking economic growth and job creation on a regional level.
Ninety high-growth companies across Illinois have received $440,000 in challenge grants from the Entrepreneurship Network to assist with obtaining professional services for comprehensive business plan assistance, evaluation of a proposed start up or expansion, or other accelerated support purposes.
DCEO Director Jack Lavin said:The Illinois Entrepreneurship Network is playing 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. Weve done our homework in studying the strengths and challenges of growing a small business, and these centers are designed to offer targeted services most in need by local entrepreneurs, including access to capital, markets, networks and technology.
In February, Blagojevich launched a one-stop online Business Portal where businesses that interact with the state can get all the forms and information they need at one location. Previously, businesses had to comb through numerous state agencies Web sites or visit multiple offices to comply with requirements and regulations.
Businesses can now log on to www.business.Illinois.gov to find the information they need from state government all in one place. The Web site provides information to business owners at all stages of their businessdevelopment: from starting a new business, to maintaining an existing business, to changing a business. The site allows businessmen to get their questions answered, download forms, licenses and permits, and locate information about different programs and services available to them.
From the April 20-26, 2005, issue