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September 3, 2004


CARBONDALE ­ Continuing to deliver on his Opportunity Returns promise to promote entrepreneurship and innovation in the Southern region, Governor Rod Blagojevich visited the Southern Illinois Entrepreneurship Center today to announce an additional $250,000 in funding and to celebrate its impressive accomplishments since opening just last summer.  The center has already received $250,000 in funding from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), who is administering the initiative, and has worked with more than 50 clients throughout the region.  The Southern Illinois Entrepreneurship Center serves the 19 counties that encompass the Southern region of Illinois.
“The Southern Illinois Entrepreneurship Center has done a tremendous job working with local companies and enterprising entrepreneurs in a variety of important ways - from providing critical capital to helping put together innovative business plans.  Since small businesses are fueling our economic recovery, we must continue doing all that we can to take advantage of the entrepreneurial spirit that is alive and well across Southern Illinois.  The Southern Illinois Entrepreneurship Center is proving that small, strategic investments can lead to sustained economic growth and more good jobs, and that is what Opportunity Returns is all about,” Governor Blagojevich said.    
The Southern Illinois Entrepreneurship Center acts as a regional hub that coordinates all small business development, entrepreneurship training and entrepreneurship development activity in the Southern Illinois region, and provides entrepreneurs with the tools they need to make their ventures successful.  The center builds on the existing infrastructure of the Small Business Development Center Network, the Illinois Technology Enterprise Center Network, and the Manufacturing Extension Center Network. 
“Governor Blagojevich’s commitment to entrepreneurship in Southern Illinois is and will continue to pay important dividends for years to come,” State Senator Gary Forby (D-Benton) said.
“This is a great day for Southern Illinois.  By supporting our many talented entrepreneurs, we are sending a strong signal that small businesses can survive and thrive here,” State Senator David Luechtefeld (R-Okawville) said.
“Governor Blagojevich and I understand that we must continue providing innovative and growing small companies with the support they need to turn great ideas into marketplace successes,” State Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg) said.
Among the many specialized resources the entrepreneurship center offers is a financial award program to assist entrepreneurs or small businesses with obtaining professional services for comprehensive business plan assistance, evaluation of a proposed start up or expansion, or other accelerated support purposes.  Award funding is determined based on the potential for successful achievement of a significant business milestone for client firms.  Maximum funding per award is up to $5,000 of eligible project costs.  Applicants are required to provide a cash match of 100% of the award amount.  The entrepreneurship center has already provided 11 challenge grants to a variety of local companies including:
Nhi-Pak, Inc.
Frank Bonner, founder of Nhi-Pak, Inc., has developed a revolutionary new concept in the institutional food service packaging and distribution market.  This new model will help his customers reduce overall cost, spoilage, waste, labor necessary for food preparation, and food-borne illnesses within their institutions.  Nhi-Pak is in the process of finalizing renovations and construction on a processing and distribution plant in the West Frankfort Business Incubator.  The center has assisted Nhi-Pak in building key strategic partnership that will help penetrate various institutional market segments.  The $5,000 challenge grant will offset a portion of the costs of a manufacturing management plan.  Over the next two years, Nhi-Pak projects to triple its revenues. 
Cannon Distributing
Cannon Distributing in Carbondale is a progressive provider of maintenance, repair and operation product, service and information.  With the $5,000 challenge award, Cannon Distributing will create custom computer software to facilitate the benchmarking and management of specialized on-going data collected from the Southern Illinois Public Cooperative (SIPC) and the Illinois Public Higher Education Cooperative (IPHEC) memberships.  Cannon has worked with the Southern Illinois Entrepreneurship Center on developing a marketing strategy to penetrate the school district market in Illinois.  In addition, the center has assisted the business with direct sales calls and integration of the new software into its business model.  The center plans to further assist the company with a state-wide roll out in the upcoming months.  Due to the growth associated with this innovative business model, Cannon has hired an additional five employees in the last year. 
Perma Treat of Illinois
Perma Treat, established in 1982, is currently a chromated copper arsenate and copper azole wood preserving treatment facility.  This second generation, family-owned Marion business has both a wholesale (industrial customer) division and a local retail (residential customer) sales facility.  Perma Treat received $5,000 in funding and assistance to reconfigure the plant to comply with new federal regulations, which will help it grow 15% annually and increase its workforce by 22%.  If the company had not been able to implement the refit, Perma Treat could have closed and 18 full-time jobs may have been lost.  The center will continue assisting the company with its strategic business plan.
“The entrepreneurship center, with the support of Governor Blagojevich and DCEO, has helped make a tremendous impact in the Southern Illinois region,” Southern Illinois Entrepreneurship Center Director Emily Carter said.
“The Southern Illinois Entrepreneurship Center is playing a crucial role in helping young firms with high growth potential develop into economically viable and sustainable companies that are growing and creating Illinois jobs,” DCEO Director Jack Lavin said.


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