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Spanning the Region

Saturday, October 1, 2005

Efforts Boost Entrepreneurship in St. Louis and Rural Missouri

Several recent developments in Missouri are leading to increasing pockets of support for entrepreneurship as a community economic development strategy.

The University of Missouri Extension has initiated Community Enterprise and Entrepreneurial Development (CEED), which will use multidisciplinary and geographically based teams to facilitate entrepreneurship as a rural economic development strategy in selected communities throughout Missouri. Contact Gwen Richtermeyer for more information at (573) 884-0669 or

The Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) in Missouri and elsewhere are now authorized to provide entrepreneurship education in vocational-technical schools. In addition, an SBDC in downtown St. Louis was awarded a $350,000 grant to enhance work that encourages the growth of microenterprises in the St. Louis area. The grant came from the Greater St. Louis Regional Empowerment Zone. For more information, contact Kevin Wilson at

A grant from the Ameren Community Development Corp. to the St. Louis Development Corp. will cover the costs of technical support services to businesses that are participating in a revolving loan program. The goal is to increase the number of minority entrepreneurs. More information is available at

And lastly, YouthBridge has pledged $500,000 to assist social entrepreneurs and to establish the YouthBridge Award and the St. Louis Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Competition in partnership with Washington University in St. Louis. YouthBridge is a 135-year-old organization that supports youth-focused social ventures. For information, contact the Skandalaris Center at

Indiana Strives to Identify Critical Gaps in Jobs Skills

A new $23 million program in Indiana is designed to create new jobs and raise incomes. The Strategic Skills Initiative, a joint effort between local and regional businesses and economic development officials, has two primary goals:

  1. to identify and alleviate current and future shortages of critical occupations and specific skill sets within the industries that drive Indiana’s economy, and,
  2. to instill a lasting, demand-driven approach to workforce development at the regional and local levels.

During the first six months of the program, $3 million will be distributed to 11 regions throughout the state. Regions will have to compete for the remaining $20 million.

Indiana Workforce Development will oversee the Strategic Skills Initiative with support from the Indiana Business Research Center and Workforce Associates Inc.

More information is available at

Affordable Housing in Illinois Focus of Tax Credits, Loans

The state of Illinois has taken two steps recently that will help low- and moderate-income people buy their own homes. The help comes in the form of an existing tax credit program and a new mortgage loan program.

The Affordable Housing Tax Credit program was extended until Dec. 31, 2011. The program offers private donors a state income tax credit of 50 cents for every dollar donated in cash, land, buildings, securities and materials to nonprofit sponsors of affordable housing developments. The tax credit may be applied to Illinois personal or business income taxes. Information is available from the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA), (312) 836-5200.

The new mortgage program is run by the IHDA, which has committed $175 million to help low- and moderate-income individuals and families become homeowners. The I-LOAN Mortgage Program is available through local mortgage lenders. (Mortgage brokers are not eligible to participate). The program offers first-time home buyers a 30-year fixed mortgage with interest rates that are approximately one-half percent below market rates. Borrowers must be first-time home buyers with income and purchase price not exceeding specified limits. Mortgage lenders can find information at Home buyers can call the homeownership hotline at 877-ILOAN56 or visit

New Illinois Law Takes Aim at Abusive Payday Lenders

A new law strengthens consumer protections against predatory payday lenders in Illinois.

The Payday Loan Reform Act limits interest on payday loans to $15.50 per $100. Consumers may not borrow more than $1,000 or 25 percent of their monthly salary, whichever is smaller. They are also limited to having two loans at a time and can refinance a loan only twice.

Loans will have a 56-day repayment period with no additional interest rate changes for borrowers. After paying off a loan, consumers must be loan-free for seven days before the lender can make another loan.

Under the law, lenders are required to use a new database that will have the applicant’s payday loan record. If the new loan does not violate the rules, the lender will receive authorization to issue the loan.

For more information, contact the Illinois Attorney General in Springfield at 1-800-243-0618 or in Carbondale at 1-800-243-0607.

Cities Get Help Creating Asset-Building Programs

What do Louisville, Ky., and Itta Bena, Miss., have in common?

They are two of the nine cities chosen by the National League of Cities’ Institute for Youth, Education & Families (YEF) to participate in its project, Cities Helping Families Build Assets. This technical assistance project is meant to develop or enhance municipal asset-building initiatives for low-income families.

Representatives of the selected cities will participate in site visits to cities that showcase ways municipal leaders can support and initiate asset-building initiatives. The nine project cities will then develop local asset-building plans and may receive customized technical assistance from the YEF Institute to implement the plans.

For more information, contact Heidi Goldberg at or (202) 626-3069.