You don’t always appreciate what you have until it’s gone. After collectively witnessing many of our main street and small businesses across the country close in 2020, there arose a new sense of appreciation for the value entrepreneurs bring to our communities and our economy. In 2021, we saw new programs and funding opportunities from the EDA and SBA to rebuild, sustain and grow entrepreneurship. Many of our affiliates improved their programming to support main street entrepreneurs in an age of COVID, and nationally, we celebrated entrepreneurship-led economic development really coming into its own as a recognized area of focus in the field of economic development.
At SourceLink, we continued the entrepreneurial ecosystem building work we’re known for while proactively developing ways to bolster this renewed wave of support. I’m particularly proud of BizLink Orange in Orlando, West Virginia BusinessLink, and SourceLink Nebraska. Extensive time and thoughtful effort went into developing all three of these initiatives, and last year we brought their impressive networks online. Other projects our team celebrated include the Sparkyard Jobs Report, Philadelphia Equitable Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Report, and our National League of Cities City Innovation Ecosystem efforts in Kankakee and Belvidere, Illinois. We rounded out the year by partnering with five SBA Community Navigator grantees as they begin working to rebuild their communities through equitable entrepreneur and small business support.
Our network grew in number and impact in 2021. Across all our platforms, there was a 253 percent increase in users receiving expert business assistance (over a half million people!) as compared to the previous year. It’s a testament to how hard all of our affiliates are working to empower entrepreneurs and drive our economy forward.
To support the growth of our network, we welcomed two additional team members! Jon Krajack came on board to provide project and pioneering entrepreneurship research support, and Johanna Cook started this fall to support enhanced marketing and communications activities. We are only as great as our people, and we have the best team in the country working here to advance entrepreneurship.
2021 was marked with proactive action, resilience and optimism, and we can’t wait to see what this emphasis on entrepreneurship will bring in 2022. To our affiliates, we thank you for the ways you’ve expertly navigated this past year – you continue to inspire us on a daily basis. On behalf of the SourceLink team, we wish all of you a wonderful new year.