Charles Marohn Jr.’s Strong America, Strong Towns speaker series was such a success in 2019 that Starved Rock Country Community Foundation is continuing the idea of a speaker series in 2020.
And the first one has already sold out.
Business owners and community members will gather together Thursday at Illinois Valley Community College for Strong Towns Speaker Forum Series II sponsored by CL Real Estate.
“Chuck Marohn’s philosophy of looking at small towns differently than we traditionally have hit home with a lot of people,” said SRCCF President Pamela Beckett. “And not necessarily that they think we could immediately fashion downtown Ottawa or downtown La Salle after some of the towns he referenced.”
Beckett said the idea many latched onto was the philosophy the key to a stronger community could be in its main streets or downtown.
The new series is focused on small business development and local lenders, and will feature speakers including Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs, Everett Solon with Starved Rock Country Alliance, Lee Trotter of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Doug Patterson of Midland States Bank, among others.
Attendees will learn about the assistance local lenders can provide when starting a new business as well as about other resources in the community.
Amy Lambert of the Small Business Development Center will speak about its free one-on-one business advising for small business owners as well as those with business ideas or dreams.
Lambert said the agency has served 112 clients in 2019 alone and has helped create 51 businesses and 146 jobs since opening its doors in 2017.
The SBDC assists with writing business plans and assessing if a business idea is feasible. The agency also had recent success in utilizing historic underutilized business zones to connect local businesses with government contracts, which she’ll talk about along with Keli Krueger-Huhra of Bradley University’s Procurement and Technical Assistance Center.
Penny Hexdall of the United States Department of Agriculture will also talk about rural development and others including Duane Calbow of North Central Illinois Council of Governments and Mike Kirchoff of North Central Illinois Economic Development Corp. will give presentations.
Next series designed for artists
A third speaker series is planned for 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday March 14, in the NCI ARTworks space in the Westclox building, 400 Fifth St., Peru, titled “From Artist to Entrepreneur.”
Lambert said she’s seen an increase in art-related businesses beginning in the community and hopes the series will serve the area’s artistic talent well.
To sign up for the “Artist to Entrepreneur” series, visit srccf.org/donate/arts-of-starved-rock-country-fund/from-artist-to-entreprenuer.
For more information on the SBDC, visit alliancesbdc.org.
For future information on speaker series follow Starved Rock Country Community Foundation and your local chamber of commerce on Facebook.