SourceLink + National League of Cities – Impacting Entrepreneurship in Rural Communities

SourceLink®, the National League of Cities (NLC) and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation are pleased to announce the results of recent efforts to advance entrepreneurial development in Kankakee and Belvidere, Illinois. Both communities recently participated in NLC’s City Innovation Ecosystems (CIE) program, offered in partnership with and support from the Kauffman Foundation.

The initiative asks city leaders to commit to an inclusive economic development policy, program or practice over the course of one year. Through this commitment it challenges community leaders to promote innovation, entrepreneurship, and education by partnering with key constituents in the community and making a commitment to strengthen regional innovation.

Committed partnerships

A coalition of partners – Growth Dimensions Economic Development, Belvidere Area Chamber of Commerce, Transform Rockford, Rockford SBDC, and EIGERlab in Belvidere, as well as the Kankakee Economic and Community Development Agency and the City of Kanakee – came together to lead their projects.

SourceLink® was selected to survey and inventory the region’s primarily nonprofit, education and governmental support resources for entrepreneurship and produce finding reports and visual representations of the available resource network. Our team’s experience in entrepreneurial data analysis and asset mapping helped both communities to organize and visualize their ecosystem of resources.

“We know that building effective and impactful entrepreneurial support networks starts first with understanding the assets and gaps that you have, then pulling together the key players to discuss and make a difference,” said Rob Williams, director of SourceLink®. “This process works whether you’re enhancing a small community or an urban core neighborhood, and we’re proud of our partnership with Kankakee and Belvidere to make local resources visible to area entrepreneurs via Compass (in Belvidere) and the Kankakee SourceFinder.”


Access to a wide range of independent organizations providing entrepreneurial services in Boone and Winnebago counties offered the Belvidere region the opportunity to be a globally recognized hub for aspiring entrepreneurs and innovative companies. Compass was created to link these organizations together and provides a roadmap to guide business owners to the resources they need throughout their business cycle.

Kankakee SourceFinder

The City of Kankakee also recognized that local entrepreneurs didn’t have a good sense of what resources were available to help them start and grow a business. “The most common inquiries I receive from existing and aspiring entrepreneurs are where do I start, what’s next or how does one solve any given problem,” said Brad Benoit, the city’s business retention and attraction coordinator. SourceLink® worked with Kankakee to inventory the region’s nonprofit, higher education, and governmental support resources as well as lending and equity sources.


Entrepreneurial ecosystem expertise

SourceLink has previously worked with cities in the CIE cohort to promote entrepreneur-led economic development, and they were “a natural fit” to support Kankakee and Belvidere, according to Corianne Rice, senior program specialist at NLC. “It’s not uncommon to overlook the resources right in front of your face,” said Rice. “A second pair of eyes, another organization that can help you identify what’s hidden in plain sight, it makes starting any type of new entrepreneur support initiative much less daunting.”

NLC is proud to partner with SourceLink again for the 2021-22 CIE program year, kicking off in November. Cities, towns and villages across America are invited to learn more about how they can participate at NLC’s Virtual Pre-Commitment Workshop, taking place on September 9. Register for Commitment #11, Mapping Resources cohort to reserve your spot today.

“We are delighted to participate for the third year as a CIE program expert, helping guide  committed communities toward identifying and connecting valuable entrepreneurship resources. The leadership and commitment in communities is integral to the success of these  initiatives,” said Dara Macan, SourceLink® national director of partnerships & engagement.

Our team is excited to work with our partners and communities to bring more cities into the program, and we encourage you to strongly consider joining the network. If you’d like to learn more about city-led entrepreneurship development efforts and how we can help you achieve your goals, contact us at [email protected].