CARBONDALE — Southern Illinois small business development and entrepreneurship efforts will get a substantial boost, courtesy of a $159,312 grant awarded to Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Southern Illinois Research Park earlier this month by the Delta Regional Authority.
The grant will fund the “Growing Southern Illinois: Strengthening the Regional Entrepreneurship Ecosystem” project, assisting startups and expanding small businesses with high growth potential by providing services on three levels, according to Kyle Harfst, executive director of economic development at SIU. The funding will enable the research park to help businesses grow through mentoring, management and assisting with access to capital.
In conjunction with the grant, plans call for creation of an Entrepreneur in Residence program, which will essentially connect local entrepreneurs with seasoned business professionals from the field who will serve as expert advisers, role models, mentors and coaches. A project director will facilitate those connections, matching people with similar business interests via workshops, meet-and-greet sessions and other activities.
“We will be creating a network of experienced professionals, including many SIU alumni, to help with this project. They will share their war stories, expertise and advice with newer entrepreneurs,” Harfst said.
The program, which will include other components, will begin in early 2017 and the total investment in growing the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is $199,249. That includes SIU’s contribution in the form of managerial support from the economic development team.
The funding comes through the Delta Regional Authority States’ Economic Development Assistance Program, the organization’s federal funding program which provides assistance to a variety of public and transportation infrastructure, workforce development, health-access and small business and entrepreneurship projects in the 252 counties and parishes within eight states covered by the Delta Region.
The SIU Research Park is SIU’s nonprofit corporation that promotes technology and knowledge-based enterprise development throughout the region. For more information about the Park and the services it provides, including the new program, visit www.researchpark.siu.edu, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 618-453-3427.