Small businesses are the very backbone of our community, supporting neighborhoods and making the local business community thrive. Every dime spent on a local company creates more job opportunities and gives control back to the people. On Wednesday morning, Indiana University Northwest hosted the Chancellor’s Commission for Community Engagement, titled “The Region’s Economic Future: Small Business Development and the IU Northwest Anchor Mission.”
Indiana University Northwest has a strong commitment to being the anchor of the community. The university does everything they can to provide resources and opportunities for people and businesses to flourish. Today, IU Northwest enlisted the help of four expert panelists to work together with the common goal of improving the community.
President and CEO of the Northwest Indiana Forum, Heather Ennis, wants to make Northwest Indiana stronger than ever. She plans to use the Ignite The Region plan, which involves Placemaking, Business Development and Marketing, Infrastructure, Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and Talent, to collaborate with the industry's finest to transform the economic region.
"[Ignite the Region] works well with the anchor mission that IUN is undertaking and figuring out how we can continue to move the Region forward," Ennis said. "We're going to be working on this plan for the next 30 days. We'll be meeting regularly with the group to continue to move that forward on a month by month basis. It's an action-oriented plan to bring the Region together and to work together.”
Cynthia Roberts, Dean of IU Northwest’s School of Business and Economics, is focusing on what the facility is doing and the school’s initiatives that support local business development, from student projects in class to studying economic development in the area.
"We're working in our classrooms and in our programming business, so hopefully over time as each business grows and becomes more developed, it will contribute to the economic growth in the Region," said Roberts.
One of the projects involves the students starting a Red Hawk Entrepreneurial Club that sells international sweets from around the world. The club will give students a great hands-on experience in business.
"I'm just really delighted to see so many community partners pull together for the good of the Region,” added Roberts. “The more that we collaborate, the stronger our work to improve the community will be.”
Lorri Feldt, Regional Director of the Northwest Indiana Small Business Development Center, is an entrepreneur expert and has many years of experience creating small businesses.
"We work with small business owners, and we're delighted that the plan highlights entrepreneurship because we believe they're critical to transforming the Region, creating new things, and innovating," said Feldt.
"I'm really excited about the role that the Legacy Foundation will be playing in economic development," said Carolyn Saxton, President of the Legacy Foundation.
The Legacy Foundation focuses on grantmaking and funding good causes, such as the Whiting Mascot Hall of Fame, the Marshall Arts Center in Gary, and the Maria Reiner Senior Center in Hobart. The foundation has just received a $226,000 grant from the US Department of Agriculture to bring food trucks and markets into East Chicago and Gary. The farmers helping with the project will be able to sell their products and become SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) eligible.
"This project gives us the opportunity to bring our expertise so that, together, [the Region] can be even stronger and provide for the citizens that live in this community,” Saxton said.