Daily Egyptian

SIU’s Small Business Development Center will close if Illinois doesn’t pass a budget by March 31

Ethen Jefferson, co-owner of El Greco, carries baklava, a layered dessert, out of a walk-in refrigerator in the back Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, at the restaurant in Carbondale. (Aidan Osborne | Daily Egyptian)

Ethen Jefferson, co-owner of El Greco, carries baklava, a layered dessert, out of a walk-in refrigerator in the back Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, at the restaurant in Carbondale. (Aidan Osborne | Daily Egyptian)

By Anna Spoerre, Daily Egyptian

El Greco is one of thousands of businesses open thanks to the help of SIU’s Small Business and Development Center.

But if the state doesn’t pass a budget by March 31, the center will close, taking this resource from regional businesses, center director Greg Bouhl said.

He said the university receives an annual $350,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, but because of Illinois’ budget stalemate, the center has not received the payments it needs since July 1. 

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The program offers direct one-on-one consultation with clients who want to start or expand businesses. 

“Technically, we should have been shut down the first of the year, but, thanks to the university, they’ve given us a bit of a lifeline,” Bouhl said.  

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He said the center, located in the university’s research park, has been open for 32 years and works with about 600 businesses and entrepreneurs a year, most of which are local.

“We have some extremely talented folks and it would be a shame not to have their talent at SIU,” Bouhl said of the center, which employs six staffers, three student workers and a graduate assistant. “We do a lot of good work in our region, and I’ve been humbled to see all the responses from past clients who’ve reached out and expressed their concern.”

Ethen Jefferson, who bought El Greco Greek Restaurant — located on the Strip — with Winslow Chou in 2013 after it briefly closed down, said Bouhl helped him decide to reopen El Greco.

“He was instrumental in helping me get to the point where I could do this,” he said. “[Bouhl has] always been a wealth of information about what’s going on in the business world.”

Jefferson said these centers exist so communities can strengthen their small business sector by giving them access to resources, which, when taken away, can hinder business growth.

“It’s really too bad that, if the state can’t get its act together, [the center will] have to close down,” he said. “[Bouhl is] putting on a brave face, but he’s worried. I’m worried for him. I’m worried for the region.”

Anna Spoerre can be reached at [email protected] or 618-536-3325.

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