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June 24, 2010

Robert Gleeson
Robert Gleeson

NIU joins partners in two states in federal project
to advance Rock River Valley automotive industry

DeKalb, Ill. - Northern Illinois University's Center for Governmental Studies will partner with five other colleges and universities, key economic development agencies and officials from local and state governments in a $5.9 million federal grant to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in the Rock River Valley.

NIU will play the lead role in two projects funded by a three-year U.S. Economic Development Administration grant awarded to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

Leaders from six participating counties in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin announced the grant this afternoon in Rockford. Other partners based in Illinois include Rock Valley College, Rockford College, the Rockford Area Economic Development Council and Growth Dimensions, the economic development group of Boone County.

EDA-funded initiatives create jobs by "accelerating innovation and entrepreneurship, particularly in emerging green technologies and global commerce, and by providing training in high-skill, high-wage industries," said U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.

This collaboration across state lines will maximize resources and support a seamless network of regional services and incubator facilities, Locke added.

NIU's pair of projects focuses on developing leaders who spur revitalization and expanding the region's financial capital to launch and grow emerging and established businesses.

NIU also will facilitate access to PASCAL, an international exchange program for which the university serves as the North American center (see www.pascalobservatory.org). This offers opportunities for regional business, government and economic development leaders to identify potential markets and/or expertise in other countries.

"Entrepreneurs within the region need to create jobs that meet the challenges of globalization," said Dr. Robert Gleeson, director of the NIU Center for Governmental Studies and co-director of PASCAL. "PASCAL's worldwide network of executives with experience in economic development, local government and higher education will work directly with the leaders of this initiative to help them leverage the world's best practices and to help companies create jobs by solving critical problems."

Other EDA expectations for the Auto Adjustment Entrepreneurial Support Initiative include market diversification, business retention, interactive GIS mapping of business resources, rapid prototyping and clean energy curriculum.

"NIU has a long history of collaborating with regional partners, and this grant allows us to build on that tradition with more partners, more expertise and more resources," said Rena Cotsones, assistant vice president for regional engagement/Rockford at NIU. "This new collaboration between higher education institutions and economic development organizations across six counties is an exciting step in the right direction for restoring the prosperity of the region."

For more information, visit http://www.eda.gov/.

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Media Contact: Mark McGowan, NIU Media Relations & Internal Communications
Phone: 815-753-9472
Email: mmcgowan@niu.edu