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Chicago Trip Examines Entrepreneurial Opportunities for Clay County

Ten members of the Clay County Economic Development Council traveled to Chicago Dec. 8 to tour two entrepreneurial and business startup centers with an eye on creating similar successes here.

The team traveled to Chicago 1871 and mHub, which offer space, equipment, expertise and more for new and would-be business ventures.

The Clay County group hopes to apply some of those ideas in projects like the new iWerx enterprise and entrepreneurial development center in North Kansas City.

The effort is linked to several EDC goals for creating an environment that nurtures entrepreneurs along with the businesses and jobs they create. “The way Chicago is setting this up and the vision they are pursuing is so impressive,” explained EDC President Sam Lodhi. “They want those entrepreneurs to build businesses, then continue growing and creating jobs. It’s very impressive.”

A key to both Chicago projects is the availability on site of almost every imaginable resource a new business might need. Meeting space and high-speed Internet are only the start. Lodhi noted a wall with the names of 300-400 experts who are willing to donate time to mentor budding businesses. Both locations have classes, meetings and other gatherings for sharing ideas and expertise. mHub also includes millions of dollars in equipment that can be used for creating prototypes and testing designs.

The payoff is dramatic. EDC President Elect Rebecca Hill said Chicago 1871, which is named for the year of Chicago’s great fire, is a good example. “In just four years, 1871 alone has generated 150 new companies and 6,500 jobs,” she said.

Several noted the Chicago operations are built with extensive support from local colleges, universities and corporations. While Clay County has far to go before approaching the Chicago efforts, the progress here is significant.

Past President Tony Reinhart said the EDC’s four-year-old Strategic Initiative was the start. A major goal was creation of an entrepreneurial environment with a range of elements may have seemed farfetched at the time: business incubators, centers of higher education and research, investment capital and more. Now, however, Clay County is home to iWerx, the Northland Innovation Center, the Northland Angel Investor Network and other developments that address nearly all of those goals.

“We’re connecting the dots,” Reinhart said. “It’s happening.”

Others traveling to Chicago were John Miller Jr. and John Miller Sr. of iWerx; Dave Palmstein, managing director of the Northland Angel Investor Network; Greg Canuteson, co-chair of the EDC Strategic Initiative; EDC Executive Director Jim Hampton; Pat Klein, Director of Aviation, Kansas City Aviation Department; Landon Young, Director of Creativity and Innovation at William Jewell College; and Tom Pryor, president of Midwest Small Business Finance.

Article provided by Dale Garrison of DGInform.com.

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