DIXON – The Small Business Development Center wants to double the number of potential and existing businesses it serves and expand its reach during the next year.
The center at Sauk Valley Community College provides advice and resources to area entrepreneurs on how to manage and grow their businesses. It opened in 2016 and became part of the Illinois Small Business Development Centers network early this year.
The center has reached a total of 374 people, largely through workshops and other events, with 55 of them being clients looking for guidance on developing their small businesses, center specialist Emily Zimmerman said.
“We’ve touched a lot of people and helped a lot of businesses grow,” Zimmerman said.
Services include helping develop business plans, address issues, and bolster marketing campaigns as well as succession planning for owners looking to retire and pass their businesses on to others.
One of the group’s main goals is to nearly double its number of clients to 100 in the next year and host 20 to 24 workshops, including a series geared specifically toward the agriculture industry.
They anticipate a dozen new businesses in Lee and Whiteside counties in 2018 and expect to serve more clients in Ogle and Carroll counties, Zimmerman said.
They’ve had four success stories, including the expansion of Aireloom Music Studio in Mount Morris and the opening of a new school supplies store, The Help Desk, in Sterling, as well as assisting seven businesses with succession planning, she said.
This fall, Sauk and the center launched a new entrepreneurship and small business management certificate program, and Zimmerman said they are also working with Whiteside County Economic Development Director Gary Camarano to promote different regional initiatives, such as economic gardening and the Northwest Illinois Film Office.
The center’s growth is moving along quickly, and it’s a valuable development tool in the community, Lee County Board Chairman Jim Wentling said Tuesday.
“Anytime you see new business, that’s great for us to see,” he said.
Dixon, Rock Falls, Sterling, and Whiteside and Lee counties all donated to the center along with Community State Bank, First National Bank of Amboy, Sauk Valley Bank, Sterling Federal Bank and Triumph Bank.
They’re also reaching out to Ogle and Carroll to commit funds.
Support from communities and banks has greatly benefited the center, especially when similar organizations throughout the state have struggled financially due to the Illinois budget impasse that lasted 2 years, Zimmerman said.
About 15 centers have closed their doors, and she said they are required to help out-of-district clients who don’t have a center nearby.
A year ago, the center received a grant from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity that brought it into the fold of Illinois Small Business Development Centers, opening up funding for the center and different resources for businesses. The grant provides $80,000 a year for 3 years.