That's the approach Coles Together and several regional economic development organizations took to eventually be awarded a Community Navigator Grant worth $320,000.
The grant is part of an initiative spearheaded by Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to help small businesses bounce-back from the recession caused by the pandemic.
These funds will go to economic development organizations to help them aid local businesses in applying to future grants.
“Allowing local economic development leaders, who know their community best, to provide direct support to businesses still struggling to emerge from the pandemic is a model that works,” said Angela Griffin, president of Coles Together.
Coles Together and local Chambers of Commerce, including units of local government, were able to help local businesses apply and receive Downstate Stabilization grants. Coles County won the second-most awards out of all counties in Illinois.
Coles Together partnered with other regional economic development organizations including Effingham County Regional Growth Alliance, who led the effort, and Paris Economic Development Corporation, Sullivan Chamber and Economic Development, Crawford County Development Association, and the Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s unlikely any of one of our organizations would have won funding had we applied independently but by taking a regional approach we succeeded in bringing resources to our communities,” said the president of the Effingham County Regional Growth Alliance, Courtney Yockey.
The $320,000 will be divided between the organizations. How much Coles Together will receive is yet to be determined, said Griffin.
While there may be plenty of job openings in industries such as retail and hospitality, causing some businesses to offer unique incentives to return to work, the majority of union jobs have remained steady.