Recently, I was asked by a Downtown Redevelopment Corporation to look at their downtown redevelopment plan and give them my thoughts on why after so much effort their vacancy rate was still so high. Actually, I currently live in the community so I had been thinking about this issue for quite some time.

A recent report released by Lieutenant Governor Sanquinetti, leader of the Governor's Rural Affairs Council stresses the importance of including entrepreneurs in innovative economic development planning for rural communities. The report Rural Illinois: New Challenges, New Opportunities also identified the difficulties that small, rural communities are having "attracting younger people" and "competing with metro areas when engaged in traditional industry recruiting efforts." The report indicates that:

Not every entrepreneurial idea is transferable to every community, but it is always nice to at least consider the possibilities. For that reason I'm suggesting you think about multiple businesses occupying the same space…I've decided to call it a Co-BIZ!

In a study done by the Prepared U Project at Bentley University it was shown that up to 70% of Millennials would like to own a business of their own and up to 17% already own a small business. Millennials - ages 19-32 - are definitely the "entrepreneurial generation". They enjoy being creative and innovative. In many cases they were forced into entrepreneurship when they were unable to find jobs during the recession. For instance, many IT majors getting out of college took contractual work from different businesses and organizations.

Throughout the Midwest, there are examles of thriving central business districts.  Through a literature review, conducted in partnership with University of Illinois Department of Urban and Regional Planning graduate research assistant, extension educators and specialists were able to identify common strategies and attributes of successful downtowns in small cities.
The indicators for successful downtowns were broadly classified into ten categories.

Taking stock of the community's resources to support entrepreneurship growth and development is a critical element to creating a proactive environment for business development. Local Economic Development Organizations can take proactive approach to assisting existing and prospective business owners through permitting process, funding opportunities, and regional business resources. Creating a guide that covers the basics, from finding a location to outlining the permit process can be an valuable resource for new businesses.

Most of us know (but if you didn't) that a strong buy local campaign is crucial to developing an Entrepreneurial Culture in a community. Just in time for the holidays, Jennifer Russell, Community & Economic Development Educator in Calhoun, Greene, Morgan, Scott and Cass counties has an excellent example for us on where to find some creative ideas for buy local holiday programs.