Northeast Indiana Selected for U.S. SBA Community Navigator Pilot Program

Tammy Allen, Director | Marketing & Programs, The NIIC

Northeast Indiana Selected for U.S. SBA Community Navigator Pilot Program,

$1 Million Award to Power Six Entrepreneurial Support Organizations to Serve Women, Minorities, Rural Entrepreneurs

For immediate release

November 17, 2021, Fort Wayne, Ind.— TheU.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) selected The NIIC (Northeast Indiana Innovation Center) as one of 51 designated Community Navigator Pilot Program Hubs. The NIIC will receive a $1 million award over two years to fund the collaborative work with spoke organizations. “We are honored to lead this important work as the hub, convening our partner spoke organizations to extend the support for women entrepreneurs, minorities, and those located in rural communities. We appreciate the SBA’s continued support to power innovation and business builders in our region,” said Ted A. Baker, NIIC Interim President and CEO.

“We began piloting the hub and spoke concept about six years ago through some of our programs. We are excited to work with our regional partners to expand this innovative concept.”

The NIIC aligned with five partners/spoke organizations for this program to serve Northeast Indiana entrepreneurs. These organizations include Allen County Public Library, Bankable, Fort Wayne Urban League, Purdue University Extension Community Development, and Region 3a Development and Regional Planning Commission. Each organization will receive part of the $1 million award to power their work for this program.

Partner Spoke Organizations

Allen County Public Library Executive Director Susan Baier said, “The mission of the Allen County Public Library is to enrich our community through lifelong learning and discovery. This extends to utilizing the library’s resources to assist rural entrepreneurs and small business owners to overcome the challenges they face. The library has assets and staff expertise at its disposal, which could make an impact in helping rural entrepreneurs make connections and build technology skill proficiencies.”

Bankable Executive Director Adam Hoeksema said, “Bankable is thrilled to serve as a partner spoke organization to help small businesses navigate the small business ecosystem. Specifically, we will work with entrepreneurs who seek and secure financing to launch and grow with loans of up to $250,000 in Northeast Indiana. We have worked with The NIIC for many years to serve Hoosier small businesses and look forward to this opportunity to continue our work together for our region.”

Fort Wayne Urban League President and CEO Terra Brantley said, “The NIIC Community Navigator Pilot Program directly aligns with the goal of the Fort Wayne Urban League (FWUL) to create a minority business incubator and entrepreneur center. The League is honored to collaborate with The NIIC as a partner spoke organization on this worthy endeavor that directly targets the underserved in our community.”

Purdue University Extension Community Development Assistant Director Dr. Michael Wilcox said, “This is an exciting opportunity for Purdue Extension, the Purdue Institute for Family Business, and the Purdue Center for Regional Development to collaborate with our partners in the region to provide an important set of programs that will strengthen the cultural competency of the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and offer services directly to the entrepreneurs themselves. As a ‘spoke,’ our firm, community, and regional level approaches will effectively complement the main programmatic thrusts of the ‘hub.'”

Region 3a Development and Regional Planning Commission Executive Director Matt Brinkman said, “The Community Navigator Program will assist many across Northeast Indiana. Region 3-A is excited to be a partner in this endeavor. We look forward to connecting people with this program so that everyone has access to the resources they need to make the region a better place to live and to work.”

A national program with hyperlocal coalition building

This program is an American Rescue Plan initiative designed to reduce barriers small businesses often face in accessing critical support. The program will provide $100 million in funding to 51 organizations that will work with over 400 local groups to connect America’s entrepreneurs to resources across the country.

U.S. SBA Indiana District Director Stacey Poynter said, “As we continue to focus our efforts on placing equity at the heart of SBA programs, we are proud that our partners at The NIIC have been named a Community Navigator Hub. They have proven expertise in identifying and working with under-represented business builders. We look forward to a bright future as they grow and develop relationships with spoke organizations to provide education and training, resources, and a voice to the small businesses of tomorrow.”

U.S. SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman said, “We need to meet businesses where they are with resources to start, grow and be resilient. The Community Navigator Pilot Program will power a trusted network of community partners to connect America’s entrepreneurs with the SBA. The program’s Community Navigators will develop strong relationships with deeply trusted community-based organizations that will tap into one-on-one, targeted support from programs designed to help them create jobs and drive innovation.”

The SBA conducted a competitive review process to ensure compliance, objectivity, and integrity that allowed every applicant an opportunity to demonstrate the impact the SBA’s support of their organization could have on their communities.  Organizations selected to receive funding will be ramping up their operations in the coming weeks to support local business owners. The program officially launches on December 1, 2021.

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About the U.S. Small Business Administration

The U.S. Small Business Administration makes the American dream of business ownership a reality. As the only go-to resource and voice for small businesses backed by the strength of the federal government, the SBA empowers entrepreneurs and small business owners with the resources and support they need to start, grow or expand their businesses, or recover from a declared disaster. It delivers services through an extensive network of SBA field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations. To learn more, visit www.sba.gov

About The NIIC

Entrepreneurs have launched 499 new products, submitted or received 196 patents, and created 2,351 jobs through The NIIC since its inception about 20 years ago. The NIIC has also connected Northeast Indiana companies to  $100.4 million in grants and capital.

The NIIC is a non-profit, vibrant entrepreneurial community that guides entrepreneurs to plan, launch, and grow successful ventures. The NIIC bolsters innovative companies to move ideas into action. The NIIC is an Indiana Certified Tech Park and is located in a designated U.S. Small Business Administration HUB Zone. In April 2018, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb designated The Northeast Indiana Innovation Park Campus as an Opportunity Zone through the U.S. Treasury.

The International Business Innovation Association (inbia.org) recognized The NIIC as the 2020 Entrepreneur Center of the Year – Mixed-Use. The INBIA also awarded to The NIIC its prestigious industry award – The 2020 Dinah Adkins Award. The NIIC is the country’s only ISO9001:2015 registered business incubation and acceleration program.  TheNIIC.org.


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