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WIU bringing international trade center to Quad-Cities

MOLINE — Western Illinois University is expanding its Small Business Development Center operations to the Quad-Cities campus, WIU President Jack Thomas announced Tuesday.

The center, under the direction of the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs, provides consulting for local entrepreneurs. The center also will feature an international trade center to connect regional businesses with global markets.

“Opening a new small business development center aligns with Western Illinois University’s overall mission to serve as a driver of economic development across the region," Mr. Thomas said at a news conference.

WIU Provost Kathy Neumann added the school has “a strong commitment to extending (its) educational mission beyond the campus.”

Black Hawk Community College hosted a small business development center until 2015. Since then, the Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce has continued its operations on an interim basis.

Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs Director Chris Merrett said that, when he learned Black Hawk would no longer be able to provide the service, he reached out to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity with an offer to expand WIU's Macomb-based operations.

The new Small Business Development Center will cover a 22-county region in west-central Illinois. The project is funded by WIU, the Small Business Administration, and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, which provided a yearlong $300,000 grant.

WIU officials said they look forward to classroom integration with the center.

“It's really important to get people thinking about … entrepreneurship at the high school and … college levels,” Mr. Merrett said. “Having a SMDC on the campus, we're thinking we can create a culture of entrepreneurship and self-sufficiency that will really serve our region well."

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