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Joe Rives, VP of the Quad Cities and Planning; Provost Kathy Neumann; Illinois Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti; and President Jack Thomas. Sanguinetti took part in the announcement.
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President Jack Thomas
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IIRA Director Chris Merrett
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WIU-QC to Host Small Business Development Center and International Trade Center

February 28, 2017

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MACOMB/MOLINE, IL -- Western Illinois University announced today (Feb. 28) that the University is expanding its Small Business Development Center (SBDC) operations, which is under the direction of the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs (IIRA), to the Quad Cities Riverfront campus. An International Trade Center (ITC) will also be established as part of the SBDC presence at the QC campus. Illinois Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti, who serves as chair of the Governor's Rural Affairs Council, took part in today's announcement.

"Opening a new SBDC aligns with Western Illinois University's overall mission to serve as a driver of economic development across the region. WIU faculty and staff work hard every day to educate the next generation of students to be productive citizens," said WIU President Jack Thomas. "However, our efforts are not limited by campus boundaries. We want to reach across the region to share knowledge and provide technical assistance wherever we can. Establishing an SBDC on the WIU-QC campus represents just one example of our commitment to regional economic development."

According to IIRA Director Chris Merrett, when he learned that the Quad Cities would no longer have a small business development center to represent the region, he reached out to the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) with an offer to expand Western's Macomb-based operations.

"The WIU-Macomb campus has hosted a business development center for more than a quarter of a century, serving a 12-county region," Merrett explained. "We must affirm our commitment to economic development across western Illinois, as well as the Quad Cities region."

Merrett and the IIRA staff have worked with DCEO to preserve SBDC services in the Quad Cities area as small business development is an important driver for employment growth. The International Trade Center will help businesses in the region connect with global markets, Merritt added.

"According to the Small Business Association, small businesses account for more than 46 percent of the private sector workforce in Illinois," he continued. "The University understands that providing SBDC services on the WIU-Quad Cities campus will further stimulate entrepreneurship and assure that business growth and employment opportunities remain within its region."

Michelle Lewis, who represented the ITC for many years while housed at Black Hawk College and the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce, will serve as a trade specialist for the new ITC office. The two WIU SBDC offices and the ITC office will cover a 22-county region in west-central Illinois.

"The newly opened Illinois SBDC will provide confidential business planning guidance, training and other resources to entrepreneurs and start-up and existing small businesses in the Quad Cities region," explained Jim Boyd, WIU SBDC and ITC director.

The Illinois Small Business Development Center and the Illinois SBDC International Trade Center are funded through a partnership with the Small Business Administration, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and Western Illinois University. To fund the expanded economic development outreach, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity has provided a $300,000 grant to Western Illinois University.

"We are very excited to host the center on the Quad Cities campus," said Joe Rives, vice president for Quad Cities and planning. "Western welcomes the opportunity to serve the region and to advance our priorities and goals through workforce development, recruitment, retention and associated economic development."

To learn more about the services provided through the Small Business Development Centers and the International Trade Center at Western, visit The Quad Cities campus center can be reached at (309) 762-3999 ext. 62228, while the Macomb center, located in Seal Hall, can be reached at (309) 298-3040 or by email at

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