EDWARDSVILLE, IL – Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and the city of Highland have agreed to partner on a pilot program focused on supporting small business owners and entrepreneurs. The program is intended to leverage the University resources being used for this initiative to build upon the city’s already successful Highland Entrepreneurship Program (HEP) and recently deployed citywide gigabit level Internet connections.

Lisa Peck, Highland’s economic development coordinator, developed the idea for the pilot program earlier in the year. “As an alum, I was well aware of SIUE’s business development assets,” said Peck. “It seemed a natural fit for us to partner with the University to help grow our community’s entrepreneurial development efforts.”

Launched June 1 and administered by the Illinois Metro East Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at SIUE, the program includes:

  • Coordinating the Highland’s highly regarded business mentor-mentee program
  • Organizing informational workshops for area small business owners and entrepreneurs
  • Conducting an Assessment of Retail & Commercial Health (ARCH) in the Broadway Street business district

The program also includes assignment of an SIUE School of Business graduate student to Highland City Hall for 20 hours per week until the end of the year. The student will split his/her time between SBDC activities and serving as an economic development intern reporting directly to Peck.

According to Dr. John C. Navin, interim dean of the SIUE School of Business, the program perfectly complements the University’s educational efforts. “Generating this type of opportunity is important for our students, because it gives them practical work experience, allows them to use their newly acquired knowledge and lets them contribute to improving a local community,” said Navin. “I am extremely pleased that the city of Highland asked us to join them in this new program.”

The SIUE-Highland pilot program is scheduled for completion by December 15, although the agreement includes a provision to extend the program well into 2015. “I am confident that our city of Highland partnership will be a success and continue for many years,” stated Patrick McKeehan, director of the Illinois Metro East SBDC at SIUE. “My hope is to replicate this same success in entrepreneurial-oriented communities across our nine-county Metro East region.”

The IL Metro East SBDC assists start-up ventures as well as existing businesses headquartered in the nine-county Metro East region of Calhoun, Jersey, Madison, Bond, Clinton, St. Clair, Washington, Monroe and Randolph. It is a no-cost service funded, in part, by the U.S. Small Business Administration, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and SIUE in support of the region’s business community.

Enhancing the Region’s Economic Interests
By aiding entrepreneurs and companies in defining their path to success, the Illinois SBDC Network positively impacts the Metro East by strengthening the business community, creating and retaining new jobs and encouraging new investment. It enhances the region’s economic interests by providing one-stop assistance to individuals by means of counseling, training, research and advocacy for new ventures and existing small businesses. When appropriate, the IL Metro East SBDC strives to affiliate its ties to the region to support the goals and objectives of both the SIUE School of Business and the University at large.