Business Matters is a series of brief conversations to check-in with corporate, civic, and community stakeholders to gauge the health and progress of our local entrepreneurial ecosystems across Central Illinois. Where are we at today? Are we making progress? How can we support startups and innovation? This is one of many conversations to discover more about the current challenges, hidden opportunities and future possibilities.
Economic Development Officer
City of Decatur
What were the highlights or critical moments of 2015 for you?
The Akorn Pharmaceutical Manufacturing expansion, completing our Mound Center development with Ashley Furniture, the start of National Food Works Services kitchen incubator, Crossing Healthcare kicking off our social services campus and adding a new Holiday Inn and Suites that we have been working on for 7 years top the list.
How is 2016 shaping up?
Off to a hot start with over $40,000,000 in projects underway. We’re on pace to pass 2014’s $45,000,000 annual investment and 2015’s $42,000,000 annual investment. There are too many project announcements to list but you can check out Decaturretail.com for more details.
Do you see any issues, gaps, or improvements that the Decatur-area entrepreneurial ecosystem needs to address?
A more easily accessible business incubator with a maker space would be nice. We held our first Startup Weekend but lack coworking facilities to send our participants too after the program. It would also be beneficial to have a one stop shop for business information. Our current system requires multiple stops at multiple departments and organizations to start a business. Access to capital is also on our wish list. We have plenty of great financial institutions in our metro area, but a couple more revolving loan funds wouldn’t hurt. Did I mention Fiber?
Which would you focus on first?
The maker space. It is low hanging fruit. There is a lot of momentum behind it and there are best practices available everywhere. Right now, we have a team in place working on a business plan.
How do you solve that?
Like any other economic development project… information and relationships. Get the right people the right information at the right time and anything is possible.
What’s your vision for Decatur’s entrepreneurial, startup, and small business future?
Partnering with our education system and business community to create a maker space attached to a fiber ready incubator that host multiple accelerator programs throughout the year. We are home to a diverse set of manufacturers with a rich history of innovation. It’s time to capitalize on our local assets and relationships.
What do you find most exciting about the current Decatur entrepreneurial scene?
The young blood hustling to take our entrepreneurial scene to the next level. We have a lot of new players breaking onto the scene and shaking things up in Decatur. We are excited about what dreams may follow our growing group asking, “Why Not?”