Women's Business Development Center
celebrates two decades of advancement among women entrepreneurs in
Mrs. Blagojevich addresses over 300
women at the celebration, discusses her personal experiences as a
business owner and highlights state resources available to
Send a link to a friend
[MARCH 31, 2006] CHICAGO -- First lady Patti Blagojevich joined
local women entrepreneurs and business leaders Thursday evening to
celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Women's Business Development
Center. Addressing more than 300 women, the first lady discussed
Illinois' business-friendly and equality-oriented environment, which
helps further empower women to develop and run their own businesses.
Mrs. Blagojevich, who is the first sitting first lady in Illinois to
own a business, talked about her personal experiences as a working
mother and highlighted available state resources to aid
businesswomen throughout the state.
"Women-owned businesses have proved to be an
incredible driving force in the Illinois economy. And, today, across
America and across Illinois, women run businesses more than ever and
do it better than ever," said Mrs. Blagojevich. "The Women's
Business Development Center has made great strides in vastly
expanding economic opportunities for women. I commend, thank and
congratulate the center for what they have done for Illinois women,
and for their 20 years of success."
Mrs. Blagojevich is a licensed
real estate broker and appraiser. Before becoming the state's first
lady, she worked in real estate for more than 15 years, and for the
past five years she has owned and operated her own real estate
company on Chicago's North Side.
Over the past two decades women-owned and minority-owned
companies have proven to be an incredible driving force in today's
economy. Twenty years ago, women owned less than 10 percent of
businesses in the United States. Presently, women own 48 percent of
all privately held U.S. businesses, employ 19.1 million people and
generate nearly $2.5 trillion in sales. In 2004, in Illinois alone,
women-owned businesses generated more than $112 billion in sales and
employed approximately 918,000 individuals. The latest estimates
indicate that there are about 460,000 privately held firms in the
state that were at least 50 percent owned by women -- ranking
Illinois fifth in the country by the Center for Women's Business
"We are proud to have reached our 20th anniversary as the oldest,
largest, most successful women's business assistance center in the
U.S., with the support of the governor, the mayor, and corporations,
foundations and friends who understand the economic impact and power
of women business owners," said Hedy Ratner, co-president of the
Women's Business Development Center.
Founded in 1986, the
Development Center is a nationally recognized nonprofit, devoted
to providing services and programs that support and accelerate
women's business ownership and strengthen the impact of women on the
economy. Over the past two decades the Women's Business Development
Center has served more than 50,000 women in Illinois through
counseling, entrepreneurial training, strengthening of emerging
businesses, providing business development programs, financial
assistance and loan packaging programs. Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich,
through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic
Opportunity, has invested more than $1.3 million to help the Women's
Business Development Center carry out its mission.
Since taking office in 2003, the governor has launched several
initiatives designed to help businesses, including women-owned
businesses, save money, create jobs and be successful. These
initiatives include the following:
The first bond
deal in state history that was 100 percent with minority and
women-owned business enterprises. Every underwriter, underwriter
counsel, bond counsel and financial adviser in the $125 million
sale was from either a minority-owned business enterprise or a
women-owned business enterprise.
assistance to thousands of women-owned businesses and
entrepreneurs through the Illinois Entrepreneurship Network -- regional hubs for coordinating all small-business
development, entrepreneurship training and entrepreneurial
development activity in Illinois. In 2005, the network assisted
women-owned businesses in obtaining $24 million in financing and
securing $138 million in contracts. Services provided by the
network's Small Business Development Centers are one-on-one
business counseling, management services, training
opportunities, business and financial plan development, and
access to financial programs. In 2005, the centers counseled or
trained about 11,500 female clients. Visit
for more information or call 1 (800) 252-2923.
Participation Loan Program, which works through banks and other
conventional lenders to provide financial assistance to small
businesses that will employ Illinois workers. In the past year,
the state has nearly doubled the amount of loans made to
women-owned businesses, increasing the percentage of loans going
to women-owned enterprises to nearly 40 percent of all loans.
workers' compensation reform, the first in the state in 20
years. The reform, aimed at reducing business costs, increasing
benefits and fighting fraud, includes the implementation of a
medical fee schedule to contain costs, which would save Illinois
businesses millions of dollars annually; a workers' compensation
fraud unit that will investigate charges of fraud and
investigate reporting of fraudulent claims by employees; and the
creation of a third panel of the Workers' Compensation
Commission to expedite the resolution of disputed claims.
Working with the
Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce to bring together small
businesses and negotiate better small-business health insurance
rates and reduce administrative expenses.
Illinois Business Portal,
www.business.illinois.gov, last February. To date, the
online site has had over 180,000 unique visitors, an average of
20,000 a month. The portal gives businesses useful information
on how to start a business, find forms, find the agency they
need to talk to and provides easy-to-find information on taxes,
mandatory posters and small-business resources.
regarding exempt versus nonexempt status of Illinois employees.
In July, the Illinois Department of Labor made a chart available
online that clearly explains exempt and nonexempt status, using
both state and federal guidelines. Increased clarity on this
issue reduced the need for consultants and lawyers, saving
Capital Development Board's process to return retainage funds to
contractors. This allowed contractors to obtain their money
quicker and easier.
unneeded information from applications, allowing the Capital
Development Board to speed payments to contractors.
business forms from paper to an online format. Now businesses
can file taxes and use most of the Department of Revenue's forms
online. Over 1,200 other forms from 15 state agencies are in the
process of conversion to online formats.
clarifying paperwork for businesses. For example, the initiative
recently improved the Employer Training Investment Program grant
application by following suggestions from Illinois businesses.
These changes will save companies time by making the application
easier to use.