Businesses were given aid by Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs and other local organizations with an informational speaker series Thursday at Illinois Valley Community College about programs in the area to assist them.
Frerichs spoke to a nearly full crowd in the Dr. Mary Margaret Weeg Cultural Centre at the college about his work to improve Illinois’ college savings program from a bronze to a gold rating as well as improving programs to help residents save for retirement.
But a more personal accomplishment for Frerichs was the Ag Invest program. Frerichs grew up in the small farming community of Gifford, and upon becoming the state treasurer, he was excited to speak with leaders in the agriculture industry.
“Prices have changed, and the whole nature of farming had changed, and we needed to update the program to reflect that. As a result, it has much greater utilization,” Frerichs said.
There’s also business and community-centric versions called Business Invest and Community Invest wherein the treasurer’s office partners with local banks to assist individuals with loans.
“We do have capital and we know there are a lot of hard-working people out there who might not be able to achieve their dreams due to lack of access to capital, so we’re trying to fix that,” Frerichs said.
Another program Frerichs is proud of is the one that allows him to play “Santa Claus 365 days a year” by connecting citizens or their family members with unclaimed money through the state’s iCash program.
Property comes in from safe deposit boxes families are unfamiliar with or money that was owed to them that was never collected.
To demonstrate, Frerichs referenced money that was available for a few individuals in the room. Another in attendance referenced they discovered $200 that same day.
He gave attendees a “homework assignment” to go to illinoistreasurer.gov and clicking on “iCash” to discover whether they have unclaimed money in the system.
“Because I know if we put more money into the pockets of citizens in Starved Rock Country and they spend it in local businesses and local restaurants, that money circulating through the economy does a lot more good than it does sitting in a bank account in Springfield,” Frerichs said.
He added, generally, one in four people who visit the site find unclaimed money.
“Your odds are far better than the lottery,” he added to laughs.
A few in attendance had questions about the state’s funding of tourism efforts. Frerichs said Business Invest can support some of those efforts, but the advertising and marketing of the state are handled through Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office.
He agreed a lack of marketing for the state may not be immediately an apparent disadvantage but is later seen through a reduction of visitors to hotels in Chicago and travelers to Starved Rock Country.
When asked about marketing potential to other nations, Frerichs said he will pass the message along to Pritzker.
“He has some big issues for the state but he committed to me during the campaign he was going to go out and be a cheerleader internationally on behalf of Illinois businesses,” Frerichs said.
Those in attendance also heard from Lee Trotter with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity who said “we are back in business, folks,” as a result of new funding.
“We’re not only your toolkit, we are your toolkit on wheels,” Trotter said of their assistance of local needs.
For future information on the speaker series, follow Starved Rock Country Community Foundation and local chamber of commerces on Facebook.