How College of DuPage aids local economic development
The critical role that community colleges have always played in regional economic development continues to increase.
According to the recent Illinois Community College Economic Impacts and Student Employment Outcomes report prepared by the Northern Illinois University Center for Governmental Studies, the indirect economic impact of the state's 48 community colleges was $3.5 billion in 2020. Regionally, this impact is best exemplified in DuPage County through the successes of students who attended College of DuPage.
With economic development as one of our strategic priorities, the college has extended this effort beyond traditional degree and certificate programs by directly supporting small businesses through two initiatives: the expanded Business Development Center (BDC) and Innovation DuPage (ID), the business incubator and accelerator.
The BDC is comprised of the Small Business Development Center, the Procurement Technical Assistance Center and the Illinois International Trade Center. Providing free business support services online and in person at the Glen Ellyn Civic Center, this group helped regional small businesses secure over $52 million in contracts, exports and capital funding in Fiscal Year 2021.
Also located at the civic center, ID facilitates a growing community of entrepreneurs in the startup and growth phases of their businesses, and connects them with the knowledge, experts and resources that are vital for success. This includes more than 45 partnerships from industry, academia and government agencies; robust programming that includes multiple pitch contests, hackathons, workshops and the Emerging Entrepreneurs program for middle, high school and college students; and an internship program that has provided impactful employment opportunities for 38 students.
ID member companies vary in their products and services, from IT to construction, and from health care to retail. Success comes through increased sales, improved operations, business retention and growth. An excellent example is Datatelligent, a data analytics company that became a member of ID in 2019 and grew from one founder to 18 employees during the pandemic.
Gindo's Spice of Life Hot Sauce is an early member of ID and a graduate of the first business accelerator cohort. Since its involvement with ID, Gindo's has improved operations, grown sales and is opening a retail storefront in St. Charles this month. Another member company, Sentrics, partnered with COD Professor Bob Clark to validate, test and improve their proprietary HVAC software, further illustrating how the college and regional assets can benefit small business research and development.
Solutions Cleaning Services reports dramatic growth and improved planning and services after completing the Owner-to-CEO accelerator program. According to founder Lilly Aguilar: "I don't know of anywhere else in this region that could replicate the kind of experience found at Innovation DuPage. The accelerator program provided me with key skills that will further strengthen the foundation of my business allowing me to grow financially."
Partners like the Hispanic American Construction Industry Association, Sikich, US Bank and Wintrust understand the value of business incubation and acceleration and are underwriting these programs, realizing that small business success is key to regional economic prosperity.
Small businesses drive our economy, push innovation and hire our college graduates and residents. At College of DuPage, we continue our long-term commitment to these small businesses and invite individuals and organizations to join in this collective effort.
For more information on COD's Business Development Center, go to https://www.cod.edu/business-development-center. For more information on Innovation DuPage, go to https://www.innovationdupage.org or contact Managing Director Dan Facchini at IDfacchinid@innovationdupage.org.
To apply to the January 2021 Owner-to-CEO program, visit https://www.innovationdupage.org/programs/owner-2-ceo
• Brian Caputo is president of College of DuPage.