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updated: 1/30/2012 5:35 AM

New program focuses on high tech businesses

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Medical devices. A concentration on science and engineering. High-tech bites of food or farming. Pharmaceuticals. Bio-just about anything. The Internet. Capital intensive, scalable. Very innovative, including an ability to apply existing technology in new ways. New technologies that actually have marketplace potential. A great idea needing investors. Alternative energy. The potential to commercialize technology developed by others, maybe government or university researchers.

If any of those words or phrases, or others you've coined, fit your business, then you should get to know Don Brozek. Or Richard Strezo. Or John Roberson or Michele Dorvil Agbejule. They run the four Chicago-area Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Specialty programs, or TIES, new support centers created by the state to, in Brozek's words, "provide small business consulting services that focus more on technology and access to capital."

The idea, says Strezo, "is to start creating serendipity, a culture of individual (business owners) and experts with a broader vision who can play a role in helping an innovator."

High-tech. High innovation. High funding needs. Local, free help patterned after the successful Illinois Small Business Development Center concept. This could be interesting.

Here's what we know about TIES so far:

• Although the SBDC structure has existed to provide support to small businesses since 1984, the TIES approach is an adaptive, focused attempt to help higher risk-potentially higher return small businesses succeed. Funding comes through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and, ultimately, matching funds from sponsoring SBDC host organizations.

• The TIES program got its initial funding last summer, which means the four local centers still are developing their approaches. The good news is that the directors talk to each other on a regular basis, sharing ideas and information.

• The TIES centers reside within local Illinois SBDCs: CenterPoint at Governors State University, University Park, where Brozek hangs out; College of DuPage, Lisle, Strezo's daytime home; The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, downtown, where Roberson leads; the University of Illinois at Chicago, west of the Loop, where Dorvil Agbejule is in charge.

• The SBDCs typically have geographic boundaries, but you can hook up with any of the TIES programs. As a result, a connection you make at COD might lead to assistance from one of the other three area TIES. Or, if your business needs expertise that lives in the TIES center in Carbondale, "We can get it," says Hilary Burkinshaw, director of the CenterPoint SBDC at Governors State.

"What's important is that the company gets help, not where the help comes from," says the chamber's Roberson.

There are six other TIES locations in Illinois: Rockford and Moline, to the north and west; Peoria and Champaign in the center; and Carbondale and Edwardsville to the south.

• Jim Kendall welcomes comments at

2012 121 Marketing Resources Inc.

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