Linking Entrepreneurial Resources

Thomas O'Neill III, Peoria County Board

Small businesses are the engines that grow local economies and create jobs, and though their role in the economy is often underestimated, they have a huge impact. In fact, Entrepreneur magazine estimates between 25 and 27 million small businesses employ up to 80 percent of all U.S. workers. Both during and after the Great Recession, many people began starting their own businesses as a way to make ends meet. As a result, communities had to adjust and make it easier for the small business entrepreneur to start up his or her business. If resources and funding are more readily available, communities are better able to create successful entrepreneurial ecosystems for startups to grow and thrive.

Developing our own entrepreneurial ecosystem has been a major focus of Peoria County’s economic development efforts. To that end, we have launched Greater Peoria SourceLink, a community referral network linking small and emerging business owners in the Greater Peoria area with local partners that provide resources and services to help small businesses grow and prosper. When contacted through the website, information is gathered about the business and the challenges being faced. Through its Resource Navigator, Greater Peoria SourceLink researches the best resources in the area to help meet those challenges and provides the appropriate referrals to the small business owner. Greater Peoria SourceLink’s team will then follow up with the small business owner or entrepreneur to determine whether his or her needs were met and to see if further assistance is necessary.

The Greater Peoria SourceLink network of resource partners largely consists of nonprofit organizations that provide services to grow small businesses in Greater Peoria. These resources include small business development groups, government entities, loan programs, chambers of commerce, community development organizations, technical and legal assistance providers, and organizations specializing in helping women or various ethnic minorities.

In turn, Greater Peoria SourceLink provides its resource partners with the following:

  • Free marketing of their classes, events and other services
  • Qualified referrals based on the service providers’ criteria
  • Greater community awareness of each organization’s services
  • Increased awareness of other network partners’ services
  • Identification of entrepreneurial needs, which can lead to service program creation, expansion and collaboration opportunities.

Although established by Peoria County and funded through a regional Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Sustainability Grant, Greater Peoria SourceLink is intended to be a tool that helps entrepreneurs across the entire region. It serves as a major component of the Peoria area’s economic development strategy to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem, and will ultimately help enhance our regional competitiveness. iBi

For more information, visit gpsourcelink.org.

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