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Spanning the Region

Friday, July 1, 2005

Entrepreneurship Centers, Web Site Available in Illinois

The Illinois Entrepreneurship Network (IEN) and the Business Portal are new efforts from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to help entrepreneurs and existing businesses in the state.

The department has dedicated more than $3 million to open 13 IEN centers statewide to coordinate all small business development activity. The centers partner with existing economic development centers, small business development centers, procurement technical assistance centers and other small business organizations in Illinois to provide services to budding entrepreneurs.

Along with the entrepreneurship centers, IEN set up a web site ( to help Illinois entrepreneurs cut through red tape and to increase their access to business resources. The site offers numerous services, including free business needs assessments and a referral (within 24 hours) for personalized, face-to-face assistance. A toll-free number (1-800-252-2923) also is available to connect entrepreneurs to service representatives who will assess their business needs.

In February, the state department launched the Business Portal,, a one-stop web site that provides easy access to information needed to do business in Illinois. All businesses, no matter the size or developmental stage, can visit the site to obtain forms, permits, licenses and information on available programs, regulations and services, eliminating the need to visit numerous state agencies and web sites.

For more information, visit

Arkansas Offers ‘Passports’ to Identity Theft Victims

The Arkansas attorney general’s office is taking applications for an Identity Theft Passport from documented victims of financial identity fraud. A victim of financial identity fraud may present his or her identity theft passport to:

  • law enforcement agencies to help prevent the victim’s arrest or detention for offenses committed by someone who is using the victim’s identity;
  • creditors to aid in their investigation and establishment of whether fraudulent charges were made against accounts in the victim’s name or whether accounts were opened using the victim’s identity;
  • to any other entities to aid in their investigation of whether the victim’s identity was fraudulently obtained or used without the victim’s consent.

Those who have had their identities stolen may download an application from or contact the attorney general’s office at (501) 682-2007 or toll free at 1-800-482-8982.

New Swedish Chamber Office Serves Five Southern States

The Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce in the United States recently made history when it opened its South Central office in Madison, Miss. The new office, one of 19 in the country, is the first to serve a region rather than a single state. The region includes Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee.

More than 100 Swedish companies interested in doing business in the area sent representatives to the April 19 grand opening. The regional chamber’s main focus is to promote economic development between Scandinavian businesses and American businesses in the five states.

For more information, call (601) 853-2647 or visit

Low-Income Credit Union in St. Louis Receives Charter

Choices Federal Credit Union recently received its charter from the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). The new credit union will serve employees and volunteers of eight social service organizations in the St. Louis metropolitan area as well as members of an association of their clients.

Qualified as a low-income credit union, Choices Federal is entitled to accept nonmember deposits, receive technical assistance from NCUA and receive low-interest loans through NCUA’s Community Development Revolving Loan Fund. To be designated “low income,” organizers had to show that a majority of the credit union’s potential members have median household incomes less than 80 percent of the national household income or less than 80 percent of the average for all wage earners.

The social service organizations the credit union will serve are the Community Action Agency of St. Louis County; Better Family Life; Good Samaritan Service Center; Catholic Commission on Housing; Habitat for Humanity St. Louis; Beyond Housing/Neighborhood Housing Services of St. Louis; Justine Petersen Housing and Reinvestment Corp.; and the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis.

The credit union was scheduled to open July 1 as Bridges went to press.

For information, call Choices Federal Credit Union at (314) 664-5051, ext. 141.