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ONU receives USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant


The United States Department of Agriculture has awarded the entrepreneurship program at Ohio Northern University’s James F. Dicke College of Business Administration a Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG) to support small business growth and development in a four-county area surrounding ONU. The grant totals $92,000.

The grant provides ONU with the funds to develop outreach programs to help develop growth and expansion of microenterprise development (small businesses with less than 50 employees and gross sales less than $1 million) and growth in a four-county area: Allen, Hancock, Hardin and Wyandot. The outreach programs are focused on serving the needs of any individual that may have an interest in starting or expanding a small business, including the targeted counties’ business community.Through Ohio Northern University’s entrepreneurship program, the funds will provide technical support in the form of one-on-one counseling, classes and workshops with the goal to assist at least 20 businesses and create 12 jobs.

“We in The James F. Dicke College of Business Administration are proud of our entrepreneurship initiative,” said Dr. Jim Fenton, dean of the College of Business Administration. “This federal grant will allow us to expand the initiative beyond the campus into neighboring rural population centers in four counties. A primary objective will be the development of new businesses and expansion of some ongoing businesses.”

A part-time director will be hired to oversee the ONU Entrepreneur Center, including community outreach, marketing, technology transfer issues, program development, and oversight of the student counselors.

With many years of experience providing similar outreach initiatives in the Columbus, Ohio, area, Dr. Tammy Schakett, ONU assistant professor of entrepreneurship, will be program director for the RBEG grant. Schakett will supervise the activities of the center, center director, and students providing counseling services.

“We, at ONU, are dedicated to outreach and economic development in this four-county area through our commitment in education and business support,” Schakett said. “This touches our students by exposing them to aspiring entrepreneurs, invaluable work experience and the opportunity to give back to the community.”

A strategic plan will be adopted for the program, which includes the Entrepreneur Center, in an initiative that includes an outreach program that features counseling and non-credit certificate classes. These mini classes will be one to six weeks in duration. Clients can choose one or a selection of classes that can be combined into a non-credit certificate in entrepreneurship. These classes are open to the public but are not offered as traditional for-credit course work at ONU. Other aspects will include monthly workshops that will provide educational opportunities on a variety of startup or small business management topics and an Entrepreneur Center business plan competition.

Additionally, the grant provides for paid internships for senior business majors and graduate students in the college’s graduate program in accounting, the Master of Professional Practice in Accounting, within The James F. Dicke College of Business Administration. As interns, these students will provide one-on-one counseling as well as develop and lead some of the classes and workshops under the direction of the center director and the college’s director of experiential learning. Faculty and local business owners who are acknowledged experts in their fields will supplement the workshops and certification classes in specialized areas as needed.