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The Mattoon in Motion project, developed through a collaboration with the MAPPING program at Western Illinois University, the Illinois Institute of Rural Affairs, and the Southeastern Illinois Community Foundation has been ongoing for over a year and is making great strides towards one of our goals which includes developing a well-trained and skilled workforce fueling a thriving local economy.

Earlier this year the Mattoon in Motion Robust Economy group sought participation from the community to gauge interest in an innovation center being proposed by our members. We received great feedback from the public to our survey and are working on implementing many of your suggestions into our proposed space.

The mission of the currently named Cross County Innovation Center is to encourage, connect, and grow small and start-up businesses in the region by creating a mixed use, co-working space that provides resources and opportunities to empower success. We are working toward developing this innovation center in an underutilized space in the Cross County Mall in partnership with Rural King. Rural King has generously donated nearly 6,000 square feet of space behind the former In Home Medical retail location.

We are currently working on the first phase of our three-phase process. The first phase, once achieved, will be a ready to use space. The ready to use space will be a multipurpose facility for gatherings and innovative idea sharing. It will have all the basic communication components in place for start-ups and small business ventures to utilize. All HVAC, restrooms, and electrical needs will be up and running. We will have a polished concrete floor and the highest speed internet access available.

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The second phase of our project will include a formal completed workspace, with finished interior design. We will have a warm and inviting location with glass elements for aesthetics. We will have multiple conference rooms with teleconferencing equipment. We will have work stations and privacy booths for client interaction. We will have business mail boxes and a business center available for members to utilize. It will be a community facing co-work space complete and ready for business partnerships. We will have an open floor plan area with a coffee/breakfast bar for member entrepreneurs.

The third phase of our project will include a partnership with ClassE, the county wide entrepreneur high school junior and senior class, which will hold all of their classes at the Innovation Center. It will have 24/7 access for members who need a working space when their schedule allows. We plan on continuing to involve the community and civic organizations in the planning and implementation of the Center.

Our ultimate goal is to keep our local talent in the community and region by providing them a fantastic location to spark their entrepreneurial spirit and grow their businesses. It is not just about the space, it's about what will happen in the space. New ideas will collide, entrepreneurs will collaborate and have the tools to grow and thrive. For further details regarding the Center and other projects of Mattoon in Motion visit our website at www.mattoninmotion.com.

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Ed Dowd is the executive director of the Mattoon Chamber of Commerce.

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