In May, I traveled up to Rockford, Illinois to visit family. While I was there I was invited by past clients and students from my Creating the Creative Business class to stop downtown and check out some of their new and/or expanding creative businesses. I honestly was not prepared for the amazing transformation. Back in 2010, when unemployment reached 21% in Rockford, I and a few others with like-minds believed that Rockford needed to find a way to tap into the creative talent of its own citizens rather than focusing solely on attracting businesses from outside the region.

On February 25, 2016, I presented Developing a Creative Economy at Northern Illinois University's day-long workshop - Creative Enterprises & Downtown Prosperity. Following is an article written by the Editor of the Downtown Auroran Magazine on Feb. 26, 2016 about the presentation and what Aurora is doing to develop their own creative economy.

When first-year Master of Urban Planning student Marcia Klopf began her search for a master's capstone project, she was looking for a project which would combine her interests in historic preservation and urban design. Through Kathie Brown, a University of Illinois Extension Educator for Community and Economic Development (serving Fulton, Mason, Peoria and Tazewell Counties), Marcia found the perfect match—The City of Washington.

Farmington recently participated in a North Central Regional Center for Rural Development study exploring factors related to a community's success in creating a resilient and vibrant downtown. This project will provide local economic development and business leaders with information to support their improvement of the health, vitality, and resiliency of their downtown districts.

I received this comment from Ken Cadow a high school teacher and administrator in Vermont. The comment was in response to my most recent post on the closing of SBDC centers across Illinois. Ken poses some interesting thoughts for us. If you would like to respond to Ken's comment or wish additional information from him – please email me at

Thanks Ken these are some great ideas for building entrepreneurial communities.

Hello Pam,

Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) are shutting down in Illinois at an alarming rate. Three centers have closed in the South Central Illinois region leaving 22 counties without any affordable business plan development, counseling assistance, or business research services for small businesses. The Quad Cities' SBDC closed on Dec. 31, 2015 and so did the SBDC in Rockford, Illinois leaving another six Illinois counties without any business assistance programs. The primary reason for closures is lack of State funding now that Illinois is in its seventh month without a budget.

Photo is courtesy of Bella Luna Bakery in Rockford, IL

The following information for women business owners was taken from the North Dakota State University Extension Service – Community & Leadership Development newsletter at

Assessing Downtown Canton report represents a collaborative effort between Canton Main Street, Uni­versity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and University of Illinois Extension. The assessment was conducted in the sum­mer of 2014 to provide technical assis­tance for revitalization efforts in Canton, Illinois. This analysis was utilized to guide downtown economic development initiatives.

How important is it for college grads to return to rural communities? The other day I was looking for some information on the impact that increasing educational attainment levels have on a community. Rural communities are having difficulties retaining and attracting youth and I wanted to be able to talk to my audiences in the region about the economic impact, in dollars and cents, of those leaving after graduating college. Luckily, I found a great article from Brookings written by Jonathan Rothwell and published Nov. 17, 2015.

I have been teaching the subject of 'how to finance a small business' since 1987 and things have changed a bit over the years especially with the internet. This "free" eBook STARTUP WISDOM – 27 Strategies for Raising Business Capital recently published by the Washington State Department of Commerce and Washington State University Extension will quickly bring you up-to-date.

Alton Illinois is moving along with its plans to build a creative economy. Check out their video published on YouTube August 16th and learn more about the process. Sara McGibany, Executive Director of Alton's MainStreet gives you an overview of their progress.

Alton Main Street-Creative Economy video is located at: