August 08, 2008

Fair exhibit will feature homegrown businesses

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Visitors to the 2008 Du Quoin State Fair can enjoy an eye-opening special exhibit thanks to the Illinois Entrepreneurship Network at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. The “Made in Southern Illinois Showcase” is, just as it’s name indicates, a showcase featuring businesses born and growing in Southern Illinois.

“The Made in Southern Illinois Showcase at the Du Quoin Fair is a celebration of the entrepreneurial spirit that is thriving in our community,” SIU President Glenn Poshard said. “Southern Illinois University remains committed to providing strong small business programs and the appropriate technical expertise to help ensure the success of these enterprises.”

The special exhibit at the Expo Hall will feature a variety of homegrown companies showcasing their goods and services. The exhibit is an exciting opportunity for businesses to reach thousands of people and likewise a great chance for fair visitors to see what the hearts, heads and hands of Southern Illinoisans produce, according to Robyn Laur Russell, director of business development and international trade at SIUC.

“Last year’s inaugural showcase was great, offering exposure to many startup companies with new products,” Russell said. “The Expo Hall venue allows people to showcase and discuss their products with people from all over our region. This type of exposure for a new business is tremendous. It’s wonderful for distribution and sales. Again, I’m very proud of the businesses we are hosting this year. They vary greatly in products and I think it will be fun for them to gain some exposure.”

Spearheading the exhibit is the Illinois Small Business Development Center at SIUC. Co-sponsors include other University programs in the Illinois Entrepreneurship Network (IEN), including the Southern Illinois Entrepreneurship Center, the University Entrepreneurship Center at Centralia, the Illinois Manufacturing Extension Center, the Southern Illinois Research Park and Incubator Program and Connect SI. Funded cooperatively with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, the IEN programs work to have a positive impact on the state’s economy. SIUC hosts the programs and provides technical assistance to small businesses throughout the region.

The Du Quoin State Fair is set for Aug. 23 through Labor Day, Sept. 1. The “Made in Southern Illinois Showcase” will highlight a different IEN client each day. It’s free and open to the public daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The 2007 showcase was a rousing success, even winning the Program Excellence Award at the 2007 Illinois Entrepreneurship and Small Business Growth Association Fall Conference. Chuck Hartke, recently retired director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture, was instrumental in the creation of the Made in Southern Illinois Showcase last year and said he’s glad to see it return for 2008.

“I’m proud of SIUC’s efforts to promote Southern Illinois businesses,” Hartke said. “It’s very apparent that there are ever-increasing opportunities for rural businesses regionally and throughout the world.”

For more information about the IEN and the numerous services it provides, call 618/536-2424 or visit the Web site at