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Experts to share tips for unique small business ventures

March 22, 2017

Successful entrepreneurs and tourism experts will headline a day-long conference at Northern Illinois University on rebuilding and strengthening local economies.

Illinois Tourism Director Cory Jobe, Humboldt Park furniture shop owners Lynne and Ty McDaniel, and Ottawa agri-business partners Scott Struchen, Peter Limberger and Kevin Pearse are among those presenting new ideas on economic development at the April 3 event at NIU’s Holmes Student Center.

In addition to the successful business owners, the conference will feature perspectives from community organizers and financial experts on how to create a climate for small business growth.

Appointed to the state’s top tourism post in January 2015, Jobe is responsible for leading the state’s tourism industry marketing and development efforts.  He will address current and future supports for small business start-ups in Illinois.

Lynne and Ty McDaniel own an art deco furniture shop in Humboldt Park.  In addition to telling their own story, the McDaniels will describe the successful neighborhood business association they founded called West of Western.

Scott  Struchen and his partners will describe how they developed an ecology of connected businesses in Ottawa – a hops farm, brewery and restaurant – that are making the small town a popular tourist destination.

In addition to the presentations on successful small business ventures, the conference will feature a panel of experts discussing how institutions need to change to foster a new, collaborative business model.  Leodis Scott of DePaul University will address higher education’s role in leadership development; Sarosh Saher of the Village of Lake Zurich will discuss municipal policies that can support sustainable businesses; and NIU’s Norm Walzer will present ideas for innovative sources of financing.

The conference is part of NIU’s Great Downtowns, Growing Cities program, developed in conjunction with the PASCAL Observatory, partner of UNESCO’s Learning Cities initiative.

It is sponsored by NIU’s Center for Governmental Studies and the School for Public and Global Affairs.

The event will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Holmes Student Center’s Skyroom.  A $75 registration fee includes breakfast, lunch, parking and materials.  NIU students may attend for free; students from other institutions may attend at a reduced price of $40.  Additional information and registration forms are available online at