A nearly $280,000 grant will unlock opportunities for area entrepreneurs, officials said Tuesday.
The grant, announced at a news conference at the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center, is aimed at helping “underdeveloped talent in historically marginalized communities,” according to a statement from the Foellinger Foundation, which donated the money.
Center President and CEO Karl LaPan said his organization will work with local nonprofits to offer help to groups – women, people with disabilities, those convicted of past crimes and more – who often are underrepresented among business owners.
“Indiana ranks 47th in the United States in new venture formation,” he said. “The central problem, in Indiana and the U.S. as a whole, is access to equity and social and economic prosperity by underestimated entrepreneurs and business builders.”
The innovation center, 3201 Stellhorn Road, assists entrepreneurs and businesses, helping with networking and securing funding.
The Foellinger Foundation last year unveiled the Breakthrough Fund, a grant program for nonprofits aimed at “people-focused ideas” to create “a significant and positive impact.” Fourteen organizations submitted proposals, and the innovation center was chosen to receive $279,900 over two years, foundation President Cheryl Taylor said.
She said the innovation center's plans align closely with the “entrepreneurial spirit in our community.”
“This program aims to break down socioeconomic barriers,” Taylor said.
LaPan said he will work with the Allen County Public Library, Women's Entrepreneurial Opportunity Center, The League for the Blind and Disabled, Blue Jacket and Amani Family Services to identify and assist people interested in starting a business. Other partners could include churches, he said.
“We can help people take their ideas and make them better and get them into the marketplace,” LaPan said at the news conference.
More information is available at TheNIIC.org or by calling 260-407-6442.