REALITY CHECK: Innovate Springfield undertakes city challenges

    REALITY CHECK: Innovate Springfield undertakes city challenges (WICS PHOTO)

    In many ways, Chad Graue is a lucky guy. His marketing company, CGraue Consulting, had him working from home for years.

    "I found that I was more productive and needed more time to get out of my house and be more creative," Graue said.

    Graue told NewsChannel 20 that "Innovate Springfield," which is a business and social innovation incubator, gave him that flexibility.

    "It was a good change of pace to have some good human to human contact," Graue said.

    The company opened three years ago and operates on the backs of small businesses looking to grow in our region.

    "The recession hit all mid-sized communities, especially in the mid-west in a very big way," said Katie Davison, executive director of Innovate Springfield.

    Around downtown Springfield, social and economic decline has been an ongoing issue with the vacant buildings moving in and out. Downtown Springfield's Y-block project has also hit snags.

    "Healthy communities create healthy economies," Davison said.

    $1.5 million in private and state tax dollars are now secured in Innovate Springfield over the next three years.

    Innovate Springfield will be a hub for the Discovery Partners Institute and Illinois Innovation Network.

    The Illinois Innovation Network was created to accelerate state-wide job creation through research and innovation.

    Davison said she's holding out on a change that many people want to see in Springfield.

    "It's about extending more opportunities for workshops and seminars for workshops for them to advance their companies," Davison said. "We provide an affordable office space for startups to come in where they would never be able to afford it on their own."

    Innovate Springfield has about 60 members enrolled, but leaders expect growth as the company expands over the next three years.

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