Because Inventure's core purpose is to work towards the long-term economic stability of Evanston, it has always had a strong interest in improving the quality of Evanston's workforce. If there is one essential factor required to support the location and growth of new knowledge-economy companies, it is the requirement for a highly educated and skilled workforce. Therefore, Inventure is supporting the Early Childhood Education project of the Evanston Community Foundation Community Works program.
This undertaking provides mentoring and early childhood education to low income, single parent Evanston families.
Inventure has been in discussions with representatives of the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Northwestern University and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago regarding the staging of a colloquy in Evanston to discuss how the three universities could work more closely together in supporting the economic competitiveness of both Evanston and the Chicago region.
Inventure continued its efforts to find appropriate space for new, knowledge-based businesses looking to move into Evanston as well as keeping the companies we have already here. Some of these efforts were successful, others not. The lack of smaller sized, lower-cost, Class B office space was most often cited by expanding small companies as the main reason they moved to Skokie, the Clybourn Corridor, West Loop, and Ravenswood areas in Chicago. Other reasons exiting companies cited included subsidies from other communities, e.g., the Skokie tech park; sale of the company to out- of-state investors; and, the need to find space closer to Lincoln Park for recruitment purposes.
With the participation of board member First Bank & Trust, Inventure called upon some local, growing knowledge-based businesses, two of which had approximately 200 employees each in Evanston. Inventure - with the help of Northwestern University - was able to help one company solidify a 10 year lease extension in downtown Evanston. Another sought Inventure's assistance in sub-letting downtown office space it no longer needed.
Inventure continued its practice of addressing local civic groups and others concerning the trends, strengths and weaknesses in the Evanston economy and the importance of retaining its existing businesses and institutions. Presentations this past year were given to the 2009 Leadership Evanston class, 2009 participants of the Public Service Challenge, the current class of Senior Leadership Evanston, and other organizations and groups interested in the Evanston economy.
With the help of the Evanston Community Foundation, Inventure surveyed some 45 private, non-profit Evanston organizations and institutions to update the non-profit sector's impact on the local economy. Results of the survey were recently published by Inventure (The Impact of Non-profit Institutions on Evanston's Economy, June, 2009) and sent on to the City Council, the local and regional press, and to all 45 non-profit entities that provided the information. The survey showed that more than 21,000 people were employed either full or part-time by Evanston non-profits and that some 8,464 of them were Evanston residents who received a total of $274,000,000 in gross wages this past year. These organizations also purchased over $28,000,000 in Evanston company goods and services and paid out some $7,400,000 in city fees, licenses, levies and permits in 2008.
Inventure met with all four mayoral candidates during the 2009 elections and sounded them out on their vision for the city and the city's role in supporting economic development. All four expressed strong interest in an active role for the city in economic development strategies and programs.
Inventure also assisted the Evanston Community Development Corporation to acquire a Northwestern University Fellowship student by raising funds within the Inventure board for a portion of her salary. This young lady is now serving as Program Manager for the organization. ECDC currently operates both a grant and loan program for small, West Side and minority businesses; a construction training program for unemployed, young black men; a Saturday farmers' market (West End Market) and local craft market on a vacant parking lot at Church and Dodge to foster healthier eating habits and to provide a training ground for beginning entrepreneurs. ECDC also supports other programs including matching successful Evanston business mentors with new and growing neighborhood businesses as well as supporting an ex-offender program tied to minority farmers and the West End Market. Inventure was directly involved in the formation of ECDC and the designation of a large, deteriorated section of the West Side as aTax Increment Financing District to provide long-term infrastructure funding.
Inventure also responded to questions about the Northwestern University/Evanston Research Park from other parts of the United States and overseas; provided tours of the Park for university and governmental representatives who wanted to see the mixed-use development; and, assisted small technology companies from throughout the region seeking incubator space at the Technology Innovation Center, a start-up technology business incubator located in downtown Evanston.
Inventure continues to be a source of information to business owners, the press, local government officials and others on the local office market and development and redevelopment activities throughout the community. Inventure also testifies before the City Council on those issues that have a long-range economic impact on the City's ability to sustain itself into the future.