COD partners with business community to support entrepreneurs

COD partners with business community to support entrepreneurs

  • Travis Linderman is the managing director of Innovation DuPage.

    Travis Linderman is the managing director of Innovation DuPage. Daily Herald file photo

  • John Carpenter, founder and CEO of Choose DuPage, is providing his expertise for Innovation DuPage.

      John Carpenter, founder and CEO of Choose DuPage, is providing his expertise for Innovation DuPage. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

By Ann Rondeau
Inside College of DuPage
Posted7/15/2018 1:00 AM

Community colleges have four specific mission areas: training, educating, economic development and workforce development. A main focus for all community colleges is being a partner with industry and business in developing a skilled workforce, both with traditional-age and midcareer transition students.

A community college also should encourage innovation. If we can provide the expertise to help students succeed in a specific line of work, then we also can help people unleash their entrepreneurial spirit by leveraging resources that promote success, whether it is developing an idea or learning how to sustain and grow a new enterprise.


This is one reason I look forward with enormous optimism to Innovation DuPage, our new initiative that will promote economic growth by providing the necessary resources to start and build small businesses.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, small businesses -- defined as having fewer than 500 employees -- have created 62 percent of the net new private-sector jobs since the end of the Great Recession that started a decade ago. The Kaufman Index of Growth Entrepreneurship ranks Illinois 17th among the top 25 most populous states, while greater DuPage County has a diverse industry base that includes two national laboratories, strong venture capital, and myriad economic and educational resources.

DuPage County is an ideal location for such progress in workforce development. With a strong business incubator and accelerator targeted to our county, we can help leverage all of these different entities to benefit the regional economy. College of DuPage initially developed Innovation DuPage -- chartered as a nonprofit corporation -- with partners Choose DuPage, Rev3, the village of Glen Ellyn, Benedictine University and Elmhurst College. Northern Illinois University, Chamber 630 and other key economic development partners have joined the effort.

We are especially fortunate to have John Carpenter, founder and CEO of Choose DuPage, providing his expertise as we move forward. He is also a member of the new Innovation DuPage Board of Directors, which had its inaugural board meeting at the Glen Ellyn Civic Center. Board members were seated and dozens of resolutions were unanimously passed to empower Innovation DuPage to continue moving forward.

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The Innovation DuPage board completed a national search for the Innovation DuPage managing director and unanimously selected Travis Linderman. He has served as a director for three venture incubators over the last decade, beginning in Princeton, New Jersey, then Ann Arbor, Michigan, and most recently at TechNexus Venture Collaborative in Chicago.

Linderman served on the founding team that launched a digital media and analytics startup designed to promote and invest in innovations emerging from Princeton University, Einstein's Alley research corridor and the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. The startup secured venture capital backing, scaled rapidly and enjoyed a successful IP acquisition.

College of DuPage is not the first community college to launch a venture like this. We met with key officials at Everett Community College in Washington, which runs a successful small business accelerator, to determine what components we needed and what we already had that could provide a foundation for Innovation DuPage. What impressed them was the success of the College of DuPage's Center for Entrepreneurship, which began in 1979 as the Center for Workforce Development.

In Fiscal Year 2015 and Fiscal Year 2016, the center helped small- and medium-sized businesses close $192 million in contracts, $4.7 million in exports and $9.5 million in capital loans. In 2017 alone, the center's clients were awarded $22.1 million in contracts and $7.5 million in exports, while center staff had 4,936 counseling sessions and hosted 186 seminars. Since 1994, the team helped businesses generate more than $1.2 billion in exports, contracts, capital and loans.


Earlier this year, the center also helped Innovation DuPage launch its first Accelerator Cohort program aimed at small businesses that generally have been in operation for at least two years, shown revenues of $200,000 or more and employed a minimum of two employees. The 12-week program consisted of lectures, peer-to-peer structured sessions and customized business coaching from mentors and staff. Hoping to attract five people, the cohort signed 12 people from 10 businesses and was a success. Applications soon will be accepted for the next cohort, which will begin later this year.

The Center for Entrepreneurship will play an essential and foundational role in collaboration with Innovation DuPage, and both will be located in the Glen Ellyn Civic Center. Renovations are soon to begin on 8,200 square feet of vacant space once occupied by the Glen Ellyn Police Department. I am truly looking forward to this partnership with the village of Glen Ellyn and believe the location, across from the train station and in the center of the village, will be another key factor in attracting clients to Innovation DuPage.

College of DuPage recently was named one of five community colleges demonstrating entrepreneurial excellence by the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship, the nation's leading organization focused on promoting entrepreneurship through community colleges. We are honored to receive this recognition, which validates that we are moving in the right direction, supported enthusiastically by our board of trustees.

With a robust business model in place, proven past performance as a solid launching platform, good governance structure and support that continues to grow, Innovation DuPage is a reality and is primed to make a major impact on the region. Innovation DuPage is one of the many endeavors that College of DuPage executes in support of our integrated mission of education, training, economic development and workforce development. More initiatives are underway as we seek to serve and help lead the future prosperity of our region.

• Ann Rondeau is president of the College of DuPage. Her column appears monthly in Neighbor.

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