Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center, US Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration Launch $1.4 Million Mentoring Program to Spur Economic Development and Job Creation in Illinois

Mar 09, 2010, 18:46 ET from Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center

CHICAGO, March 9 /PRNewswire/ -- The Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center (CEC) recently secured a two-year, $716,853 matching grant from the US Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration (EDA). The EDA funds were awarded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to launch a $1.4 million entrepreneurial development program that provides critical resources and relationships to businesses in key Illinois industry clusters. Known as the Cluster Acceleration Program, or "CAP," the program will support entrepreneurs in alternative energy, consumer products and services, and information technology for the new media, financial services and healthcare markets. The program will serve businesses in five regions: Chicagoland, Rockford, Quad Cities, Peoria and Carbondale.

"The CEC's Cluster Acceleration Program should be a model for the rest of the United States as an innovative way to nurture entrepreneurs, strengthen local economies and foster job creation," said Robert Sawyer, Director of the Chicago Regional Office of the Economic Development Administration.

By 2012, the CEC estimates that CAP participants will secure $60.8 million in revenue, $28.7 million in financing and create and retain 2,254 jobs through the assistance of the program.

Three tiers of activities will support the CAP program's mission of identifying, preparing and connecting high-growth entrepreneurs.

Industry Cluster Forums: At the broadest level of community outreach, the CEC will sponsor industry conferences that will engage 1,000 entrepreneurs and business professionals.

"CAP 200" Circle of Entrepreneurial Ventures: The CEC will assist 200 entrepreneurs who are doing business in target clusters with educational events, coaching on near-term sales and financing opportunities, as well as network introductions, with an emphasis on peer mentoring and resource sharing.

"CAP 20" Circle of High-Growth Entrepreneurial Ventures: The CEC will provide strategic planning and mentoring assistance to 20 of the most promising ventures in target industries. Each "CAP 20" client will receive staff assistance with building their 12- and 24 month growth plans and three unique mentor matches: a seasoned entrepreneur, an industry expert and a business development expert. "CAP 20" clients will also gain access to the CEC's Board and venture development networks.

"The 'CAP 20' companies will be the new leaders of these industries in the years to come.  These companies have the potential to be $10 million businesses within 5 years," said David Weinstein, President of the CEC. "We are delighted to partner with the EDA to spur economic growth in Illinois."

"CAP 20" clients will be selected over a series of two intake cycles. The first class of participants was selected in January 2010 and includes eight companies. The second class will be selected by January 2011 and include 12 companies.

The CEC would like to recognize the eight companies that were selected as the first "CAP 20" class:

About the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center

The Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center (CEC) works at the intersection of business success and civic engagement. It identifies the region's most promising entrepreneurs and helps them build high-growth, sustainable businesses that serve as platforms for economic development and civic leadership for the Chicagoland area. Since 2003, the CEC has helped our client entrepreneurs secure $229 million in revenue, raise $130.5 million in financing, and create or retain nearly 5,844 jobs. In turn, CEC clients fuel the entrepreneurial ecosystem of our city by mentoring young talent, advising their peers, and joining the CEC "movement" to inspire entrepreneurship in Chicagoland.  The Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center is an affiliate of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. To learn more visit

SOURCE Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center