Hancock County

Our Progress

Entrepreneurship Education is an important consideration for building a solid pipeline of new entrepreneurs for a region. Working with University of Illinois Extension staff, Hancock County Economic Development Association is working to create new local entrepreneurship education programming, using Rural Entrepreneurship through Action Learning (REAL), NXLevel® Guide for Enterprising Youth, and Going Solo curricula. Each of these curricula take a hands-on approach to teaching core principles of products, marketing, operations, and financials essential to every business start-up. The local community college is a terrific partner for this programming because of their current strength in dual credit programming for high school students and the large number of associate degree programs offered that have a high probability for conversion into new business starts locally.

Warsaw and Carthage High Schools have successfully integrated these resources into their vocational education programs. We have tremendous opportunities for partnerships with education through University of Illinois Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership and the Illinois Institute for Entrepreneurship Education. They along with many other groups are working hard to provide resources and linkages to support a creative environment that supports entrepreneurship development.

Building Entrepreneurial Communities has helped create a culture that recognizes, supports and celebrates entrepreneurs. Central to this entrepreneurial climate are networks that create a positive climate to nurture and encourage entrepreneurship. The Bizlink program that is currently being used in Hancock County encourages business owners and entrepreneurs to travel to different locations throughout the county on a monthly basis to learn more about local businesses and additional topics relevant to business start-up and expansion, such as infrastructure, legislative updates, and attracting and retaining young people. A committee of 10 local business people meets monthly to plan the upcoming programs. The programs are structured around learning from one another and making connections to resources available to support entrepreneurship and help local businesses thrive.

Another example of a supportive culture and networking practice for entrepreneurs is the recent formation of the Hancock County Young Professionals Group (HYP). The group was established in the fall of 2008 and continues to provide networking opportunities for young professionals and entrepreneurs throughout Hancock County. The core planning committee has grown from three members to 11 members in less than one year, and more than 50 participants attended our fall 2009 social event.

During the summer of 2009, the group organized the beginning of a "Come Back Home" campaign in an attempt to reconnect with young people who have moved away from Hancock County and to encourage them to return to the area to work and/or live and possibly start their own business. The group has also agreed to serve as a support group for a job shadowing and mentoring program for high school students in Hancock County that would match the students with local young business leaders and entrepreneurs in an effort to expose students to the many local opportunities that are available to them as they complete their education and think about returning to the area to start their careers or possibly their own business.

Hancock County