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June 15, 2005

Small Business $mart Energy Program supported with $1.5 million Opportunity Returns grant to the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois

CHICAGO – Delivering on his Opportunity Returns commitment to help Illinois small businesses reduce their energy costs, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today announced a pioneering new partnership between the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  Through the Small Business $mart Energy Program, the School of Architecture and the Office of Continuing Education will help businesses to evaluate energy efficiency improvements that will reduce their cost of doing business in Illinois.  Many energy efficiency improvements are very cost-effective, both with new construction and rehabilitation projects, but businesses frequently are unaware of their opportunities.
“I am very concerned by rising natural gas prices and want to help small businesses in Illinois lower their energy costs,” Gov. Blagojevich said.  “Businesses that are building new facilities have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lock-in low energy prices by choosing an energy efficient and sustainable design.  Through a new partnership with the University of Illinois, we can help business owners get the information they need to make the right choices.  The Small Business $mart Energy Program will help businesses save energy dollars today, while reducing pollution and creating a more sustainable world for tomorrow.”
The $1.5 million Opportunity Returns investment for the $mart Energy Design Assistance Center follows up on a highly successful smaller pilot project.  In the pilot program, twenty businesses receiving assistance identified combined annual savings of approximately $630,000.  The pilot had one-time program costs of only $225,000.  These savings translated into a 34 percent rate of return for the recommended investments in energy conservation, or nearly $3.4 million in net present value terms. 
“Energy efficiency improvements resulting from good design can help businesses to save a lot of money - but businesses need to be aware of the opportunities in order to act on them,” said David Chasco, Director of the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  “The $mart Energy Design Assistance Center helps businesses to identify these opportunities, and helps the University of Illinois School of Architecture teach the lesson that the benefits of sustainable design include both environmental protection and higher profits.” 
Businesses with more than 5,000 square-feet that are considering new construction, gut rehab, or end-of-life replacement of their HVAC systems are eligible for assistance through the program.  The School of Architecture has established a $mart Energy Design Assistance Center (SEDAC) to provide four successive levels of service to fit the diverse needs of different businesses: Level One, initial consultations; Level Two, simple energy audits and recommendations; Level Three, for projects showing significant potential, full design assistance and energy analysis; and Level Four, for project implementation assistance.  Businesses can contact the program toll free at 1-800-214-7954 or at www.sedac.org.
"Under this partnership with the University of Illinois, Gov. Blagojevich recognizes the importance of boosting economic opportunity by helping businesses reduce their costs.  By focusing on ways to help businesses develop better energy efficiency methods, we can not only help businesses save money but do so in a way that will improve the environment," State Rep. Naomi Jakobsson (D-Champaign) said.
East Moline Glass, an East Moline company, is one of the twenty businesses that received assistance from the pilot program.  East Moline Glass is constructing a 22,000 square-foot facility that includes improvements recommended by the program, including a geothermal heat pump system for heating and cooling, temperature setback controls, and more efficient lighting systems.  The implementation of these systems will reduce East Moline Glass’ utility costs by more than $10,000 annually. 
“My son will be running this company in ten years, and ten years from now his bills will be one-tenth of everyone else’s.  I’m not doing this for me - this is an investment in the long-term health of our family business,” said Larry Anderson, owner of East Moline Glass.

The Small Business $mart Energy Program is designed to improve small business competitiveness through intelligent building design and efficient building components, to support job creation by facilitating new energy efficient fields in the building trades, and to reduce pollution by reducing wasted energy.  The program demonstrates the many ways that economic development and environmental protection go hand-in-hand.
“High energy costs damage the bottom line for Illinois businesses,” said DCEO Director Jack Lavin.  “With the Small Business $mart Energy Program, we are working to replace high energy costs with high wage jobs in the building trades - jobs installing geothermal heat pumps and other energy efficiency improvements.  Gov. Blagojevich is working to keep our energy dollars at home here in Illinois.”
“Gov. Blagojevich is to be commended for his vision to establish this program.  Other states talk about helping businesses with energy costs, but the Governor is providing one of the best efficiency programs in the country,” said Wael El-Sharif, Executive Director of the Geothermal Heat Pump Consortium, a partner with the School of Architecture, which is providing both technical expertise and outreach assistance. 
The Small Business $mart Energy Program is partially supported by $130,000 from the United States Department of Energy’s Rebuild America program and offers training for architects, designers and building contractors.
Gov. Blagojevich’s Opportunity Returns regional economic development strategy is the most aggressive, comprehensive approach to creating jobs in Illinois’ history.  Since a one-size-fits-all approach to economic development just doesn’t work, the Governor has divided the state into 10 regions – each with a regional team that is empowered and expected to rapidly respond to opportunities and challenges.  Opportunity Returns is about tangible, specific actions to make each region more accessible, more marketable, more entrepreneurial and more attractive to businesses.  It is about upgrading the skills of the local workforce, increasing the access to capital, opening new markets, improving infrastructure, and creating and retaining jobs. Opportunity Returns is about successfully partnering with companies and communities, both large and small, to help all of Illinois reach its economic potential.


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