During the last half of 2005, Rend Lake College’s Small Business Development Center helped start six small businesses, creating 38 jobs and retaining 27. The total amount of loans, grants and equity investments for these ventures was more than $2.6 million.

Also between July 2005 and December 2005, eight training activities were held, with a total of 81 attendees.

Among those receiving assistance from the RLC Small Business Development Center in the latter half of 2005:

The Emporium on the Square, 901 Public Square, Benton, is owned and operated by Steve and Nancy Pace. The Paces are avid collectors and originally planned to launch their mall in 2008 or 2009 when they had both retired, but with Steve’s lay-off due to the announced closing of Joy Technologies, the couple decided it might be time for such a move. Their extensive travel in the quest for knowledge and treasures enabled them to watch the market trends change over the years, learning how some shops weathered the changes and grew to be a strong influence in the market. They were put in touch with the Rend Lake College SBDC through an Internet search.

Nancy and Steve met with RLC SBDC Director Curt Mowrer, himself an avid collector, and put together a comprehensive business plan. With the plan in hand, the Paces went to Steve Woodfin, commercial lender at US Bank in Benton. Woodfin was impressed with their work and was confident in loaning the couple the needed capital to start their business. The Emporium on the Square is the largest antiques and collectibles mall in the region, with 10,000 square feet for shoppers to enjoy in an ever-growing market on the downtown square in Benton. A grand opening is being planned for February 11 and 12, and everyone is invited to browse this unique and well-stocked mall.

Willis Distributing and Fabricating, Inc., 12306 Illinois Route 37, Benton, is a manufacturing business of agriculture- and automotive-related products with national and international sales. Jeff Willis, owner of the company, met with Mowrer to develop a plan in which he could increase his inventory of raw materials to fill orders that were coming in for the winter months. Mowrer invited Willis to the Small Business Administration “Community Express” workshop in Carbondale where Mowrer made a presentation. Willis met with representatives of US Bank in Centralia who could see his vision and assisted with the needed cash to secure and fill orders for two of his biggest clients, topping off their winter work.

Ward’s Pressure Washing Company is a home-based business located in Mt. Vernon offering commercial and residential hot or cold pressure washing. Owner Mike Ward saw a need for this service and decided to pursue his vision of making it happen. He opened his business in September of 2005 and has since been actively bringing homes back to their original beauty. His business also can clean concrete and any other surface which needs cleaning or brightening.

Teel Electric Services, 1307 West Elm, West Frankfort, began operations when Joseph Teel retired from Verizon Wireless Communications. Teel has brought to the market a “24-7” electrical contracting company, and he takes pride in offering potential customers an alternative to the “I can’t make it today” scenario one often hears during an electrical emergency. The company does commercial and residential electrical contracting and will do maintenance as well as installation. Teel Electric Services was formed on December 1, 2005 to provide commercial and residential customers with an alternative for all of their electrical needs. Collectively integrating electrical, telecom, computer, and architectural backgrounds with expertise, Teel Electric Services has its eyes on its customers’ futures. The company is licensed, insured and bonded to protect and ensure quality customer care and relieve customer concerns.

There’s a new restaurant in town. The 9th Street Grill opened its doors Jan. 17 to an enthusiastic crowd. Husband-and-wife team Laura Thacker and Rob Lupa decided to move to Mt. Vernon to be closer to family. As frequent visitors to Mt. Vernon, they succumbed to the energy that has taken off in the downtown area. The couple purchased the 100-year-old building at 222 S. Ninth St. and went to work. Their new restaurant has an Italian flair, but the menu is quite diverse and the pricing is such that it can easily fit into anyone’s budget. The restaurant serves a variety of red and white wines from California, New Zealand and Italy, in addition to offering several local premium beers on tap. The restaurant employs 15 well-trained staff who will make the experience such that customers will want to return often. Mowrer said the Rend Lake College SBDC is proud to have been a small part of this venture and lauded the unique and personal experience offered by hometown restaurants.

For more information on the Rend Lake College Small Business Development Center, contact Mowrer at (618) 242-5813.

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