The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) is charged with enhancing Illinois’ economic competitiveness by providing technical and financial assistance to businesses, local governments, workers, and families. As the state’s lead economic development agency, DCEO works to capitalize on Illinois’ strengths as a center of transportation, manufacturing, and technology development.
The Opportunity Returns (OR) North Central Region team serves as a liaison between local communities and state government. This means a new challenge every day and the opportunity to help our businesses and communities in a variety of ways.
The bureaus under the DCEO umbrella are Business Development, Coal Development, Community Development, Tourism, Energy and Recycling, Office of Trade and Investment, Illinois Film Office, Technology and Industrial Competitiveness, Workforce Development, the Illinois Entrepreneurship Network, and the Homeland Security Market Development Bureau (HSMD).
In our post 9/11 world, homeland defense and security have been at the forefront of our nation’s consciousness, and both the public and private sectors have demanded new products and services that will best protect the public. To meet these urgent demands, Gov. Rod Blagojevich launched an economic development initiative to build the homeland security industry in Illinois. With an estimated annual global market value of approximately $45 billion and growing, the homeland security sector represents a vibrant growth opportunity for Illinois businesses, and the potential creation of thousands of well-paying jobs will make an important contribution to public protection, emergency preparedness, and business continuity.
One thing is clear: the products, services, and strategies used to secure our country in the past must be improved to allow us to be better prepared for and respond to natural and man-made disasters in the future. Illinois’ businesses are poised to compete with innovative new solutions thanks to its favorable business climate featuring easy access to robust capital sources; top-notch universities and research institutions; a highly skilled and trained workforce; and a strong, diverse business and manufacturing base. Additionally, the state is at the center of an efficient global transportation and distribution network, providing the foundation for the homeland security industry.
The Homeland Security Market Development (HSMD) Bureau in the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity was created to attract, support, and engage businesses in the homeland security industry. HSMD offers a variety of financial tools specifically intended to foster growth in homeland security industry businesses.
Illinois established a Washington, D.C. office for the Homeland Security Market Development Bureau. This office is focusing on the economic development aspects of homeland security and ensuring Illinois companies have access to the information they need to understand current and future product and service needs.
More than $3.5 million has been provided for the Homeland Security Market Development grants program. Through this fund, DCEO established the Innovative Product Grant (IPG) program with grants up to $150,000 to companies or joint ventures that bring new products to market and a companion grant program to support educational institutions and not-for-profit organizations engaged in pilot projects or development of sector-focused information clearinghouses.
We’ve invested in employee training for companies on the verge of rapid growth, which are racing to meet the new demands of the homeland security industry. We’ve also partnered with the Illinois Board of Higher Education to launch a field of study in homeland security at all Illinois public universities. The new homeland security field of study program also will be supported by a new scholarship program, generously funded by Caterpillar, which will provide a total of $25,000 in scholarships to selected students at schools implementing the new field of study.
The North Central Region has several resources to assist businesses entering the HSMD field, such as the Procurement and Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) at Illinois Central College, the Entrepreneurship Center at Bradley University, the Manufacturing Extension Center (IMEC), and of course the DCEO Opportunity Returns team.
The HSMD Bureau has been conducting a series of Market Development conferences across the state in the past months. On February 9, the “Opportunities for Manufacturers in the Homeland Security Market” conference took place in Peoria, highlighting manufacturers from across the region and the state and how their products have been or could be developed into homeland security applications. Attendance at this conference was far beyond expectations, and a great exchange of ideas took place.
The HSMD Bureau is planning another conference in Chicago June 19, concentrating on transportation issues. For more details, watch www.hsmd.illinois.gov. For more information on DCEO, call 647-5896. IBI