News 2019-04-22T18:23:36+00:00

Monroe County EDC Hosts 3rd Annual Meeting and Reception

COLUMBIA – Monroe County Economic Corporation (MCIEDC), held its 3 rd Annual Meeting and Reception on
Thursday, March 21, 2019 at “11 South” in Columbia, Illinois. A capacity crowd of business and community leaders
were on hand to hear about the Corporation’s activities during 2018 and learn about plans for growth and economic
development for the region in 2019. Budnick Converting Inc. of Columbia and Sun Basket Inc. – Midwest Operations, received special recognitions for their significant contributions in job creation, retention, innovation, and superior service.

Ann Wegmann, President of Budnick Converting, and Tuan Nguyen, Midwest Operations Manager for Sun Basket,
accepted the recognitions in behalf of their companies.

“The Corporation is grateful to high performing companies like Budnick and Sun Basket,” commented Chairperson Ryan Osterhage. “These companies are truly major drivers to the economic vitality of this region, and I look forward to watching them continue to grow and create good paying jobs for the region.”

Nikki Budzinski, Senior Advisor to Governor JB Pritzker, was on hand to speak to the group about the state budget, a
capital bill, revenue streams, and other strategies and initiatives of importance to the state and southern Illinois. She
commended the Corporation on the great work they were doing in the region and stated that Governor Pritzker wishes to keep the lines of communication open with regional leaders as the administration looks for solutions, and creates initiatives, to get Illinois on track again. Executive Director Edie Koch was encouraged by what Ms. Budzinski had to say.

“Monroe County Economic Development Corporation looks forward to the opportunity to participate in future dialogues as the new administration continues to determine the best way to move things forward for the State.”

The event also included an introduction of the “Building Futures” program offered by Executive Director Anne King and staff of the Human Support Services. It was noted that job coaching, educational opportunities and customized training services, are available to employers who hire individuals with a disability.

USDA grant is “Fueling Growth” for Science, Education and Economic Development at SIUE

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, in partnership with the University of Illinois Extension and Monroe County Economic Development Corporation (MCEDC), has been awarded $680,000 under the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Non-Land Grant College of Agriculture (NLGCA) Capacity-Building grants program.

The project, “Fueling Growth: An Integrated, Capacity-Building Grant for Experiential Learning, Extension and Economic (E3) Development in Rural America,” leverages SIUE’s resources and faculty expertise for economic and community development, improved job creation and retention, and workforce education in the food, agriculture, natural resources and human (FANH) sciences.

Led by Bob Dixon, PhD, in the SIUE Department of Chemistry, and Courtney Breckenridge of the NCERC at SIUE, the project aims to provide startup, small, and medium businesses with the science and skills they need to grow by leveraging agricultural science resources and expertise with interdisciplinary, entrepreneurial approaches.

“There are real challenges and, more importantly, opportunities in rural America that the tools of science, social science and communications can help solve,” Dixon said. “Thanks to this award from the USDA, SIUE students and faculty will be out in the community, using their knowledge and resources to work with small businesses, farmers and entrepreneurs to grow our future workforce and our communities. Businesses get the science and skills they need to grow, while students gain unparalleled applied learning and leadership experience, including strong incorporation of social science knowledge and theory.”

Thanks to the partnership with MCEDC, economic and community development is a critical emphasis of grant activities. Monroe County is a primary example of how to create new and sustained job growth and entrepreneurial activity in rural communities. With a vibrant small business community driven largely by food, beverage and agricultural-based companies including microbreweries, distilleries, restaurants, and of course, a strong agriculture and agri-business sector, the county’s business community understands how to leverage its rural resources for growth, and makes an ideal home for the project.

“Monroe County Economic Development Corporation is always seeking innovative new ways to support its existing business members and attract new opportunities to our region,” said Edie Koch, MCEDC executive director. “We are excited about the prospect of creating and retaining more jobs for the region through this new initiative. This project will not only provide new fuel to the entrepreneurial spirit of the region, but will allow us to target our agriculture, food, and beverage companies with key services that will help them develop and grow.”

Agriculture education and career development in grades K-12 is the third focus of the E3 initiative. Led by the University of Illinois Extension Madison-Monroe-St. Clair division, the project will bring agriculture educators and experiences to classrooms across the Metro East.

“The University of Illinois Extension appreciates USDA’s recognition of this project, which establishes exciting new partnerships that will benefit our region as a whole,” said Pamela Jacobs, county extension director for the University of Illinois Extension Madison-Monroe-St. Clair Unit. “Bringing additional agriculture education into the classroom helps raise students’ awareness of the many career opportunities that exist and increases their understanding of some of the biggest issues of our time. This project brings SIUE, MCEDC and the U of I Extension together to ensure a more highly-skilled and prepared workforce for jobs in agriculture and ag-related industries across Monroe, St. Clair and Madison Counties by connecting young students to agriculture issues and experiences in a meaningful, exciting way.”

In addition to Dixon, Breckenridge, Koch and Jacobs, the project includes faculty and staff from six academic departments and five centers at SIUE, including chemistry, environmental sciences, sociology, geography, mass communications, nutrition, the NCERC, Office of Educational Outreach, the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), and the Environmental Resources Training Center (ERTC).

With the interdisciplinary strength of the collaborators and strong connection to key players in business and the community, SIUE Chancellor Randy Pembrook is confident the grant will make a significant impact.

“This grant is further recognition of the excellent undergraduate and graduate teaching and research taking place at SIUE, and the many ways our students and faculty are shaping a changing world,” Pembrook said. “We look forward to working with our partners at the Monroe County Economic Development Corporation, the University of Illinois Extension, and the community to fuel community and economic growth using the tools of agriculture and science.

Entrepreneurs Learn Importance of Business Plans

By  on March 21, 2019

Businesses don’t just happen. At least not successful ones.

That was the message a small but hardy cadre of potential business entrepreneurs took home from a Monroe County Economic Development Corporation program in its “Start-up Southwest Illinois” series of programs March 6 at 11 South in Columbia.

The session — focused on developing effective business plans — was the second in the MCEDC’s business start-up sessions. A third is scheduled for May 19.

MCEDC Executive Director Edie Koch introduced the key presenter, Jo Ann DiMaggio May, Director of the Small Business Development Center for the Metro-East. The center serves nine southwestern Illinois counties and has two offices — one at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and another in East St. Louis.

DiMaggio May identified the value of small businesses to communities by noting they support 67 percent of all new jobs, new businesses start-ups or business expansion. But they don’t just happen. Rather, successful businesses start with a well thought out, persuasive business plan — a document that may start with little more than a written proposal, but that lays out a well-conceived path ahead. It quantifies ideas and serves as a repeated reality check, burrowing into such details as projected costs of rent, utilities, insurance and legal requirements, that might stymie a new endeavor as it is launched.

DiMaggio May listed the elements of a good business plan, placing them in a logical order and linking them together. A well-developed business plan describes the business’s structure, the proposed services or products it will offer and how they will be priced. It identifies equipment requirements, numbers and kinds of employees that will be required. It gives an overview of the market, including describing competition and importantly, why the new business owner thinks he or she will succeed in that environment.

Critically, it marches a start-up through its first 12 months — month by month. It enables the would-be start-up business owner to project costs and incomes — month by month — to see if they are realistic or if there are specific points or milestones that might spell success or failure. It balances revenues against costs. It identifies a “break even” point.

Then extend the projection into a second and third year, she instructed.

A well-developed business plan is especially critical if the new business owner is going to need to gain financing to bridge the gap between getting started and breaking even.

John Vitale, First Bank Vice President and Business Banking Officer, who partners with DiMaggio May on many of these development sessions, told attendees, “If you come seeking a loan and don’t have a good business plan, I’ll tell you to come back when you do.”

“Underwriters really care about financial projections,” he added.

DiMaggio May spent time describing ways of measuring possibilities.

“Look at competitors’ web sites. In a retail environment, go and walk through their facility. Sit in the parking lot and watch who comes and goes,” she said.

She also discussed surveys to better identify target markets, by gender or age.

At all points, planners should seek to identify what customers or clients want. And they should look for ways to set their idea apart, DiMaggio May said. Meeting a previously unidentified need, or making an existing one better, is a meaningful goal.

At the session’s end, attendees were told to update their plan periodically. What is working? What’s not? What new openings are appearing? And remember, DiMaggio May and Vitale both said, there may come a day when you desire to go a different direction or even to retire. And a dynamic, up-to-date business plan can be a powerful sales tool for the business itself, they said.

In addition to being an essential tool for successful businesses, well-developed plans for new businesses can be sources funding themselves, for the business.

This is the fifth year for the SIUE Metro-East Start-up Challenge. The competition, open to new businesses and those three or fewer years old, offers three prizes: $10,000 for first, $6,000 for second, and $4,000 for third place. While that is unlikely to be all needed to get a business going, it is a nice sum that doesn’t have to be repaid.