Friday, October 30, 2009

New Small Business Planning Tool from IRS

Retirement Plan Navigator

The Internal Review Service has created a new web-based tool, the "Retirement Plan Navigator," to help small business owners. You can find it at

The navigator guides small business owners in three areas: choosing a plan, maintaining a plan, and correcting a plan. The navigator includes a side-by-side comparison of pension plans and their requirements to help small business owners choose the one that best fits their situation. The navigator also provides a checklist and suggested resources to help employers keep their retirement plans in compliance with the law.

The IRS will update the navigator as pension laws and regulations change.

(Source: U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of Advocacy)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

GLCEDC Grants Available

On October 26, the Executive Committee of the GLCEDC approved two matching grant programs to be funded by the Livingston County Board's grant of $500,000. The Commercial Building Improvement Grant (CBIG) is designed to entice property owners to make improvements to existing structures that will remove obstacles for new businesses seeking to locate in the structure. Our goal is to improve the commercial building stock in the County so that new businesses can more easily be recruited to the area. We want to be able to offer new businesses numerous buildings that are in "move-in" condition.

The Community Development Infrastructure Grant (CDIG) is a matching grant given directly to municipalities for economic development purposes. Municipalities apply directly for the grant and the funds can be used for infrastructure improvements, property acquisition, and other projects related to economic development. The grants can not be used for tax exempt purposes or for public services.

Please follow the link to the GLCEDC website for more information and applications:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Rural Brain Drain

By Patrick J. Carr and Maria J. Kefalas
(Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education)

What is going on in small-town America? The nation's mythology of small towns comes to us straight from the The Music Man's set designers. Many Americans think about flyover country or Red America only during the culture war's skirmishes or campaign season. Most of the time, the rural crisis takes a back seat to more visible big-city troubles. So while there is a veritable academic industry devoted to chronicling urban decline, small towns' struggles are off the grid.

And yet, upon close inspection, the rural and urban downturns have much in common, even though conventional wisdom casts the small town as embodiment of all that is right with America and the inner city as all that is wrong with it.

The Harvard University sociologist William Julius Wilson famously describes how deindustrialization, joblessness, middle-class flight, depopulation, and global market shifts gave rise to the urban hyper-ghettos of the 1970s, and the same forces are now afflicting the nation's countryside. The differences are just in the details. In urban centers, young men with NBA jerseys sling dime bags from vacant buildings, while in small towns, drug dealers wearing Nascar T-shirts, living in trailer parks, sell and use meth. Young girls in the countryside who become mothers before finishing high school share stories of lost adolescence and despair that differ little from the ones their urban sisters might tell.

In both settings, there is no shortage of guns, although in North Philadelphia's Badlands or Chicago's South Side those guns might be concealed and illegal, while in small towns guns hang on display in polished oak cabinets in the sitting room. Residents of rural America are more likely to be poor and uninsured than their counterparts in metropolitan areas, typically earning 80 percent what suburban and urban workers do.

The most dramatic evidence of the rural meltdown has been the hollowing out—that is, losing the most talented young people at precisely the same time that changes in farming and industry have transformed the landscape for those who stay. This so-called rural "brain drain" isn't a new phenomenon, but by the 21st century the shortage of young people has reached a tipping point, and its consequences are more severe now than ever before. Simply put, many small towns are mere years away from extinction, while others limp along in a weakened and disabled state.

In just over two decades, more than 700 rural counties, from the Plains to the Texas Panhandle through to Appalachia, lost 10 percent or more of their population. Nationally, there are more deaths than births in one of two rural counties. Though the hollowing-out process feeds off the recession, the problem predates, and indeed, presaged many of the nation's current economic woes. But despite the seriousness of the hollowing-out process, we believe that, with a plan and a vision, many small towns can play a key role in the nation's recovery.

To read more of this article, click here.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Small Business Advice from Investors

Bob Jacoby is a business startup investor in Texas. He offers some advice to entrepreneurs:

Make your idea work on the small scale first, then you can grow from there.

(Source: Small Biz Survival 10/23/09)

City makes room for new law and justice center

PONTIAC -- Bob Tinges had mixed emotions as he watched the demolition of the building where he had worked for 47 years. "I spent a lot of time there, but it's an old building and has outlived its usefulness," he said. "We were landlocked there and really couldn't expand at all. The new location is great and we love it."

The building has stood at 112 E. Washington St. since 1901 and housed a funeral home, a plumbing business and Tinges' granite company. Now, it and several other buildings southeast of the Livingston County Courthouse are being torn down to make space for the new law and justice center. McCoy Construction Co. started the $170,000 demolition project Oct. 16 and should end by early next month.

The new 50,000-square foot facility will house court-related offices and will cost $17 million to $19 million. Completion is expected by fall 2011, and offices will move in during January 2012.

To read the rest of the article click here.

(source: The Pantagraph 10/23/09)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Website Tools

Increasingly the best and easiest way to get information about your business or organization to Livingston County residents is through the internet. I recently ran across a very helpful website that gives information and advice for economic development websites, but I think the information can be useful for businesses and organizations in Livingston County as well. Here are some of the main points:

1. Content Architecture
Whoever is in charge of website content needs to start out with a content plan. The contents of the website should be organized into logical and practical sections. It is important to organize information that will best serve your customers and community members. A disorganized website with broken links is one good way to scare off visitors to your website.

2. Searches
More than half of all internet users use search engines (google, yahoo, etc.) to find information on the internet. There are a few things you can do to make sure that your business or organization is first on the search lists. Most searches consist of one or two words, so it is important to anticipate what words your visitors will use to search for your website. Make sure that you use those words often throughout your website. For example, if you are an insurance company, you need to have a high density of the word "insurance" throughout your website. If you think visitors will search by location and you are located in Flanagan, for example, you should have the word "Flanagan" or "Flanagan, IL" in various places throughout your website. Another factor can be the number of links between your website and other relevant websites. To illustrate, main street organizations in the county will have a higher search engine ranking if they are linked with other main street organizations in the area.

3. Make it easy and quick
The average time that someone spends on the GLCEDC website is 2 minutes and 53 seconds. We have that much time to get visitors the information we want them to have. The easiest way to direct visitors to important information is through navigation menus. Menus should be visible and uncluttered. Fold-out menus that allow customers to scan through page options is a good, time saving idea. Menu titles should be short, clear, and describe exactly what information the visitor will find by clicking on it.

Lastly, remember to update your content frequently. New, interesting content will keep you on the minds of customers and community members. You can make simple changes like updating pictures or news articles once a week to keep your website looking fresh and up to date.

For more information about building and maintaining a dynamic website follow this link.

Monday, October 12, 2009

$1.7 Billion in Loan Assistance to Help Rural Businesses

Loans Provided through Recovery Act Funds will Help Strengthen Rural Communities Throughout America

WASHINGTON, July 29, 2009 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA is now accepting applications for up to $1.7 billion to fund projects that help spur business activity and economic growth in rural communities. This infusion of money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into rural business is designed to create and save jobs and help rural communities grow and prosper.
"The Recovery Act funds announced today will help businesses get access to the capital they need to launch and expand their businesses and help bring additional jobs to America's small cities and towns," said Vilsack. "President Obama and I are committed to building strong rural communities by helping businesses grow so we can put people back to work."

The funding announced today will be made available through USDA Rural Development's Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan program, which supports the development of private businesses. Eligible applicants include cooperative organizations, corporations, partnerships, nonprofit groups; federally recognized Indian tribes, public bodies and individuals. The funds will be targeted to creating and retaining quality jobs and serving difficult to reach populations, and areas hardest hit by the current economic downturn.

USDA will accept applications for this Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan program until Sept. 15, 2010, or until all funds are expended. Recovery Act funding will be available through Sept. 30, 2010. For information on eligibility criteria and for application assistance, please contact your state Rural Development office, or visit for a listing of all state offices.

For past examples of USDA Business and Industry Guaranteed Loans please click here.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Ameren Targets Small Businesses with Online Store

Ameren Illinois Utilities is targeting small businesses by offering them high-efficiency bulbs for as little as $1 each through its new Small Business Online Store.

Beginning Thursday, Ameren Illinois Utilities said it would provide free shipping for a limited time on all Small Business Online Store orders.

The store also offers dimmable flood lights, energy-efficient exit signs and smart power strips.

Businesses will qualify for discounts if they use no more than 150 kilowatts of electricity.

(source: St. Louis Business Journal)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Google Local Business Center

The following is a video describing the Google Local Business Center. Adding information about your business is very easy to set up and can be updated at any time. Google will also help you track information about searches for you business. Watch the video below for more information.

Visit the Google Local Business Center to sign your business up.

101 Small Business Mistakes

The American Express Small Business Forum recently published an article on mistakes that entrepreneurs make in all phases of setting up and operating small businesses.

101 Small Business Mistakes (and What You Can Learn From Them)
Gregory Go (Wise Bread)

Oct 05, 2009 -
(This article was written in collaboration with Glen Stansberry)

Let's be honest: running a small business is not an easy task. Especially in an economic downturn. Small business owners are keenly aware that mistakes can be very costly at this point in time.

Yet in order to have success, at least a few mistakes have to be made along the way. It's a part of building and growing. Oscar Wilde once said 'experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes.' And even the most successful business owners have had their fair share of blunders.

Here are some of the biggest mistakes that prominent business owners have made in their lifetime, and what they learned from them. (Read More)

15 sources for great business advice

This article through Delware online lists 15 sources for business advice.

Don't go it alone: 15 sources for great business advice
By RHONDA ABRAMS • Gannett • October 5, 2009

You can find a great deal of help -- much of it free -- whether you're transitioning to self-employment, facing new challenges in your existing business or hoping to start a company.

Through the years, I've noticed one big difference between successful entrepreneurs and those who fail: Successful people seek out good advice and listen to it.

Businesspeople who think they know it all are the ones who have the most difficulty navigating change.

It's important to get help. Here are some outstanding sources: (Read More)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Small Business Innovation Research

Small Business Innovation Research is a federal program created to support research and design projects for small businesses nationwide. The largest Federal agencies must set aside a percentage (currently 2.5%) of their R and D budget for SBIR projects. In 2008 this represented over $2 billion of available funding.

These projects are reserved for our domestic for-profit small businesses that are independently owned and operated by individuals (not large entities). The agencies pose problems, usually tough ones that they need solved to help fulfill their missions. The small businesses are invited to submit proposals for solving them, describing how they’re going to do the work and spend the money (up to $850K in two phases – feasibility and prototype development).

The proposals are evaluated and the best ones are funded, based solely on the merits of the planned project, the qualifications of the team, and the potential for turning the technology developed into a business with potential customers being from both the government and the private sector.

Visit the SBIR website for more information:

(Source: Small Biz Survival Blog 9/28/09)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Training Opportunities for October and November

The Chicago Farmers: Landowner's Forum - Wind Energy 101 October 7
This program will feature university educators and industry professionals presenting on how wind energy developments affect landowners, what landowners should expect, and best practices for landowners to follow when working with developers. Cost to attend: $25 Early Bird Registration by October 1, 2009. $30 as of October 2, 2009. Click here for more information.

"Solutions for Small Business" Webcasts October 7 and November 17
Mediacom Communications is collaborating with BLOOMBERG TELEVISION® to deliver expertise to small business executives through free, video Webcasts in a new series, Solutions for Small Business. The Webcasts offer direct access to leading experts who will provide advice on topics critical to helping small businesses thrive, such as maximizing marketing dollars and accessing capital markets. Register at

Economic Development 101 - October 24
The Economic Development 101 course hosted by the Economic Development Council of the Bloomington-Normal Area will be held Saturday, October 24. This course is FREE for elected officials and $35 for all others.

Find out more information at

Heartland Community College: Green Institute Programs

The Green Institute, established in 2008 at HCC, supports a wide range of campus initiatives, educational programs and community activities related to sustainability, energy conservation, renewable energy, recycling, retro-commissioning and other environmental technologies.

The Green Institute offers professional training, general workshops, and degree certification programs on a variety of different topics, including; green building, wind systems, and solar energy. The Green Institute offers the following degree programs:

Electronic Systems Technology Degree with an option in Building Automation
The building automation option will prepare technicians to work in a variety of industrial and business settings where they would be responsible for the installation, maintenance and programming for automated systems used through facilities.

Renewable Energy Degree
The RE degree will prepare technicians to work in the renewable energy industry and related fields. The program will provide a broad background of technical skills in addition to specific competencies in new technologies such as wind energy and photovoltaic systems.

Construction Management Degree with Green Building emphasis
The construction management program will prepare students to work in the construction related businesses and services with a emphasis in green building technology and energy efficient systems.

Visit The Green Institute's website for more information:

USDA launches "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" initiative

The USDA has launched a new initiative to connect farmers with consumers. The intention of this initiative is to, "...create new economic opportunities by better connecting consumers with local producers. It is also the start of a national conversation about the importance of understanding where your food comes from and how it gets to your plate."

The "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" website: ( provides more information on the initiative's activities and an extensive database on grant and loan programs sponsored by the USDA. This is a good resource for both consumers and farmers.

Joliet Jr. College: Business for Success Seminars

JJC has listed the fall schedule for their Business for Success Seminars. The fee is $60 and workshops include; business planning, marketing strategies, recordkeeping, using local resources, and information on small business taxes.

For more information follow this link:

New Cullom Grocery Store Expected to Open November 1

CULLOM -- Cullom residents have gone without a grocery store for more than a year, but a place where they can buy fresh fruit, vegetables and meat should be open by this fall. "This means that people will once again be able to get what they need right here in town without traveling," said Village President Margeurite Kross.

Carl Krause III, chairman of the board of Cullom Community Market Inc., said that the corporation recently purchased a store at 112 W. Hack St. for $27,000. The corporation is funded through shares sold to the community at $100 each. Krause said that they are currently in the process of refurbishing the site and it should be open by Nov. 1.

Officials are also working with distributors to stock the shelves. The store will primarily carry food, but other items such as dog food, toiletries and greeting cards will also be available.For 25 years, the building was home to Ommen Family Foods, operated by Bill and Joyce Ommen. The Ommens then retired a few years ago, and the store went through different owners but it was not successful.

The village of fewer than 700 people currently has a Casey's General Store, but they have to drive to different communities in order to purchase fresh food and other grocery items. After looking into various options, a group of residents decided that they would turn the grocery store into an investment opportunity. Krause said that they have received about $50,000 in investments, with a total of $110,000 pledged. "In a perfect world and in a perfect business model, there will be dividends like any other business," Krause said.

Although no exact projections have been established, Krause said that ideally, people would see a profit within the first year of operation. However, Krause said that village residents are not necessarily worried about making money from their investment. "Most of the people that I've talked to are not expecting a return," he said. "They just want to see the store open again."

(Source: The Pantagraph 9/8/09)

Livingston County Board Invest $500,000 in Local Economic Development

The Livingston County Board voted unanimously to provide a grant in the amount of $500,000 to the Greater Livingston County Economic Development Council (GLCEDC) in an effort to spur economic growth in the county.The funds will be use entirely for economic development programs. Bill Fairfield, County Board Chairman, said, “his is a way we can take some of the proceeds fromthe wind farms and give it back to the communities of Livingston County.”

The GLCEDC will administer several programs that will be funded with the grant. Larry Vaupel, CEO of the GLCEDC, stated that the programs may include lowinterest loans, building improvement grants, and grants for community infrastructure and development. “he programs will focus on making Livingston County more attractive to commercial and industrial development. We want to entice business growth and expansion by assisting new and existing businesses to invest in the area.”

Mike Stoecklin, Chairman of the GLCEDC, stated, “e find ourselves in challenging times and we believe having these programs in place will create an enticing environment for companies to bring jobs to Livingston County.”Businesses, municipalities, and commercial property owners interested in learning more about the economic development programs should contact the GLCEDC at 815‐842‐2900 or visit their website

For more information please contact Larry Vaupel, CEO of the GLCEDC at815‐842‐2900.