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Whitley EDC awarded business enterprise grant

Statement as issued Thursday:

COLUMBIA CITY, Ind. (August 23, 2012) – The Whitley County EDC and USDA Rural Development announced today that the EDC is the recipient of a $60,000 USDA Rural Development Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG), which will be used to establish the SBEI Market Maker program available to clients of the EDC’s Small Business & Entrepreneurship Initiative (SBEI).

“USDA Rural Development is pleased to once again support the growth of the Whitley County EDC’s outreach to local entrepreneurs and small business owners,” said USDA Rural Development State Director Phil Lehmkuhler, “programs that encourage startup and growth of rural businesses are so critical to the vitality of our rural Indiana communities”.

SBEI Market Maker will serve 12 companies during it’s initial one-year startup. Funds will be used to provide technical assistance to small and emerging businesses within Whitley County through the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Initiative (SBEI). The SBEI program began as a services-based business incubation program providing structured services and programs for pre-startup, startup and growing businesses in Whitley County. From its start, the incubator program has been focused on equipping small business owners with the tools and skills needed to develop, grow and thrive within Whitley County and their marketplaces.

“This announcement is another significant milestone in our efforts to expand the EDC’s Small Business & Entrepreneurship Initiative,” said EDC president Alan Tio. “In addition to delivering customized business coaching and mentoring, and access to startup capital, we can now provide guidance to businesses wishing to enter new markets or expand their product or service,” continued Tio.

SBEI Market Maker is intended to align the capacity of locally-based, growth-oriented companies with opportunities to support technology transfer and commercialization of products and services. SBEI Market Maker will connect businesses to regional and state level resources to educate business owners and decision makers on how to pursue technology commercialization and product development activities. With support from the Rural Business Enterprise Grant program, participation in the market maker series will be provided at no cost.

Today’s announcement follows the 2010-11 expansions of the EDC’s Small Business & Entrepreneurship Initiative (SBEI) to include SBEI Greenlight, a program focused on rapid response business coaching and mentoring for local entrepreneurs, and a Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) available to SBEI clients. SBEI Greenlight was launched with the support of the Northeast Indiana Fund and the Whitley County Community Foundation. The Revolving Loan Fund was established with a separate USDA Rural Development Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG).

Since June 2009, the SBEI program has served 46 participant companies. Those companies retained 293 jobs, created 75 new jobs and raised more than $2.25 million in capital.

About Whitley County EDC

The Whitley County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) is the lead economic development agency in Whitley County, Indiana. The EDC works closely with local, regional, and state partners to support our industry clients’ growth and success. Our mission is to implement a unified economic development effort and to expand employment and business opportunities for the benefit of the people of Whitley County by developing and maintaining cooperation of all individuals, groups, and organizations within the county. The Whitley County EDC was established in 1992 and represents Whitley County, Columbia City, and the Towns of Churubusco, Larwill, and South Whitley. For more information about the EDC, visit www.whitleyedc.com.

About USDA-Rural Development

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of state and local offices. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. Rural Development has an existing portfolio of nearly $149 billion in loans and loan guarantees. For more information about USDA Rural Development, please visit: www.rurdev.usda.gov/in/.

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