Small Businesses Continue to Contribute to Economy and Job Growth
A recent survey of small businesses assisted by the city of Galesburg’s Economic Development team and the EBI Network has shown results for their efforts. Cesar Suarez, city of Galesburg’s Economic Development Director said, “The ED team has a multi-prong approach for economic development, including formation of small businesses; regionalism; promoting sustainability; organizational innovation; and expanding exports. We’ve been tracking the results to make sure we’re on target with our efforts, and making adjustments where necessary. Overall we’re pleased with the results, but we are aware that this is a never ending effort. ‘What’s next?’ is always on our mind.”
On the small business formation front there have been several success stories, most notably among them Alan Environmental, Sitka Salmon, the Flipple Co., and Blackburn Sampling. According to Gary Camarano, Global Strategies Director for the city and the EBI Network, “Alan Environmental is a true small business success story. Josh Knuth, one man business operating out of a garage seeks assistance from our ED team. The team mobilizes, finds him the necessary space to expand at the Business Technology Center at Carl Sandburg College, and supplies some technical and financial assistance. We then let Josh do his thing and then we see the results.”
The results in this case are a one man shop expanding to eight employees over its first year, approaching $1,000,000 in sales and looking to hire seven more employees.
Josh Knuth, Alan Environmental Founder and President explained, “As Alan Environmental Products Inc. has grown in size so has our extensive product line. We are continuing to expand our Bio based cleaning line to include the AE Enviro Clean line, a certified DFE green cleaning line. The Enviro Line will be introduced in late March 2013. Our customers continue to bring us unique and challenging cleaning and maintenance problems, knowing that the AE team can find the right solution. Our solutions include air care, drain maintenance, janitorial supplies, Municipal and industrial water treatment, insect and weed control. We are told every day that our products and service meet and exceed their expectations. As our customer base grows the AE team grows. We strive to hire local talent, and will be adding 7 sales and marketing representatives in the near future.”
Mr. Knuth went on to praise the city’s ED team for their assistance and hard work saying, “Galesburg is great place to start a business and the city’s involvement has been very instrumental in getting us to this point. We look forward to being here for a long time.”
Mr. Knuth encourages anyone interested in career opportunities or maintenance solutions to please visit Alan Environmental at @ www.alanenvironmental.com.
Eric Dilts, Marketing Director at the Sustainable Business Center in Galesburg likes to point to Sitka Salmon as a recent start up that has exceeded everyone’s expectations. Mr. Dilts said, “Sitka is an example of a sustainable business that started out from a college project and turns into a business. Nic Mink, a professor at Knox, started Sitka last year and has seen the company exceed their projections. Starting from $0 in sales last year they are looking at about $450,000 in sales this year. They have gone from one full time employee to two full time employees and looking to add four full time seasonal and four part time seasonal employees in 2013.”
According to Nic Mink, Sitka Salmon’s founder and CEO, “Sitka Salmon Shares specializes in bringing salmon, halibut, and black cod direct to Midwestern consumers from small boat family fishermen in Southeast Alaska. Sitka Salmon Shares operates as a Community Supported Fishery, meaning it’s a members-based organization that allows consumers to purchase a ‘share’ of the harvest from their fishermen. Sitka Salmon Shares has two types of shares--a three-month Sitka Salmon Share and, new this year, a five-month Sitka Seafood Share. A Sitka Salmon Share entitles a member to their ‘share’ of July's king salmon harvest, August's sockeye salmon harvest, and September's coho salmon harvest. A Sitka Seafood Share provides those, plus a share of October's halibut harvest and November's black cod harvest. Consumers can buy in at monthly increments of 5, 10, and 15 pounds. All the fish is blast-frozen and vacuum-sealed in consumer-ready one pound portions and delivered to the home every month on dry ice.”
Consumers interested in finding out more about Sitka Salmon, or to enroll, should go to the following web site: www.sitkasalmonshares.com.
It’s not just Galesburg businesses the team The EBI Network teams helps. They have a regional focus and have been active throughout the region. The EBI Network has worked with Roseville’s Fusion Tech, and there have been substantial results seen there. The company is undergoing a considerable expansion, with plans to hire 72 welders over the next two years; won several large contracts, and is constantly improving their plant and employees skills. Fusion Tech VP Bryan Ahee reports, “We were recently awarded new contracts exceeding $2.25 million from two major food processors, and see more on the horizon. We have worked closely with the EBI Network and appreciate their support. In fact we are working on a project with them, a time share for a 3D Printer/Prototype, which has the potential to help several of the region’s manufacturers. They are creating an environment for growth.”
Mr. Camarano is quick to note that the ED team does not take credit for creating these jobs, but for providing the assistance and environment that supports business growth and job creation, noting, “The real stars here are the owners, management and employees of these companies. They are the ones that the successes ultimately belong to. Our job is to provide assistance and get out of the way.”
With any flurry of new job creation it is important to take in consideration qualified candidates for the position. There are open positions, but sometimes not enough qualified candidates to fill them. Regional partners like the Workforce Investment Board of Western Illinois, and Carl Sandburg College with their vocational training courses work to provide the necessary skills to potential employees who take part in their programs. New training initiatives are being planned by both organizations.
The Sustainable Business Center, an incubator for green sustainable businesses has also been instrumental in helping businesses grow. Blackburn Sampling, the SBC’s second tenant, has hired three new employees since moving to the SBC, received two new patents, increased sales and is ready to roll out a new anti-static hazardous material sampler.
Lamboo, Inc., a manufacturer of a highly sustainable building material made from bamboo, quickly outgrew the SBC ahead of schedule. SBC Marketing Director Eric Dilts says, “Lamboo quickly exceeded their goals and was able to acquire two fabricating plants that eliminated the need for distribution space at the SBC. But, they have seen the value of working with the SBC and the EBI Network, and are working with us to find another project that would be suitable for Galesburg and the SBC. We are actively pursuing opportunities like this.”
In addition to manufacturing, the EBI Network has also worked with companies engaged in renewable energy projects. Pennycress Energy, an emerging agricultural company that is working with a winter cover crop that offers growers income potential as a bio-diesel feedstock has been recruited to Galesburg, and with the help of the EBI Network is engaging growers with a value proposition that gives them a free cover crop, funds to harvest it, and income for the seed harvested that will be used as a bio-diesel feedstock. The project has caught the eye of several organizations and elevated Pennycress Energy to a key presenter spot at the Ag Innovation Showcase in St. Louis last September. The company hopes to enroll more growers and open a crushing facility in Galesburg that could employ 30 at full capacity.
It is not only the direct results that matter. Jobs created and retained are often highlighted, but there are the indirect results that also add up in creating a strong economic base. Recently, during a visit with Bob Paulsgrove and Mark Rudolph of Phoenix Industries, a division of KCCDD, an interesting point was brought up. Mr. Paulsgrove pointed out that the city’s efforts in supporting the Gates Manufacturing expansion, which brought 86 new jobs to the area, resulted in new contracts that created 15 new jobs at Phoenix Industries. Mr. Paulsgrove said the expansion, “has proven to be a real success story and continues to provide additional work opportunities.” The indirect benefits of economic development efforts are often overlooked, but remain very important in building the region’s economic base. Mr. Paulsgrove encourages anyone interested in acquiring quality driven contract work in the assembly, or packaging areas, or that are interested in providing work opportunities for persons with disabilities to visit the work program page at www.KCCDD.com.
The activities of the city’s ED team and the EBI Network have not gone unnoticed. Stare Representative Don Moffitt said, “Over the last two years, the city’s EBI Network has had an impact on the region’s economic base. They are very proactive and assertive in their efforts. I’m proud of their results and look forward to seeing more jobs for the region come from their actions. I encourage anyone looking to start or grow a business to contact them – they may be able to provide valuable assistance.”
Mr. Suarez ended with, “As an ED team we have to face many challenges in helping the private sector create and retain jobs, most notably the national economy and the perceived business climate of the state, and there is very little we can do about that. But, we can concentrate on the things we can have an impact on, and that consists of working collaboratively with our partners to assist the private sector with technical and potential financial assistance, networking, and fostering an atmosphere conducive to growth. We have a mayor, council, administration and the local partners that contribute greatly to our efforts, and we as an ED team can see traction and results. A strong economic base doesn’t happen overnight, but victories like the companies highlighted, taken as a whole, are getting us there.”
For more information about the city of Galesburg’s Economic Development Department and the EBI Network’s economic development programs designed to help businesses grow and thrive, contact Cesar Suarez at