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WIU-Quad Cities campus unveils boost for businesses

MOLINE - The Western Illinois University campus here is adding a Small Business Development Center and International Trade Center. Federal and state funding will pay for the $300,000 project.

"We want to reach across the region to share knowledge and provide technical assistance," said WIU President Jack Thomas, on Tuesday, Feb. 28.

While the Illinois budget crisis continues to delay expansion plans for the Moline campus, these additions offer something to celebrate.

"We've had several budget cuts and reductions, but this is something that we thought we should keep," Dr. Thomas continued.

The programs will mirror similar long-time efforts in Macomb.  Goals include strengthening existing small businesses while seeding new ones to grow.

"We think it's really important to get people thinking about, 'Maybe I could start my own business,'" said Chris Merrett, director of the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs.

Strategy that fits into Q2030.  That's the long range plan from the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce to add 54,000 young professionals to the region by 2030.

"It is also a workforce development and economic development issue for rural places," said Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti, (R) Illinois.

The one-year deal hopes to turn into a long-term presence at the riverfront campus.

It will focus on community outreach while encouraging students to develop ideas.  That should help the campus to prosper.

"This is very important to the economy and the economic impact that it has on West Central Illinois," Dr. Thomas concluded.