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Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ for Businesses

Where does the Advantage Illinois funding come from?
On Sept. 27, 2010, President Obama signed into law the Small Business Jobs Act, the most significant piece of small business legislation in over a decade. The new law provides critical resources to help small businesses and entrepreneurs continue to drive economic recovery and create jobs, including lending support, tax cuts, and other opportunities. Part of this law is the “State Small Business Credit Initiative” (SSBCI) which provides each state with an allocation of funds for state capital access programs and other credit support programs designed to increase access to credit for small businesses. Advantage Illinois is our state's program to leverage SSBCI funds.

What is the purpose of these programs?
Advantage Illinois is a shot in the arm for our small businesses that have been negatively impacted by the Great Recession. By working in conjunction with the state's lending community and venture capitalists, our goal is to help entrepreneurs and small businesses start-up or expand, creating new jobs at a faster rate.
 
Enhancing business access to capital is a top priority for Governor Quinn and the Illinois Innovation Council. The Brookings Institution recently noted more than 95% of new jobs are derived from business expansion or start up activity.
 
Illinois expects to generate a minimum "bang for the buck" of at least $10 in new private lending for every $1 of federal funding provided through this program, meaning at least $800 million in private investment pumped into the economy to grow the small business sector. As businesses put this capital to work, innovative ideas and new products can be brought to market and, in the process, accelerate job creation and economic growth in Illinois.
 
Advantage Illinois programs make eligibility as flexible as possible, maximizing the impact on Illinois economy and especially encouraging loans to small start-up, and Minority, Woman, Disabled, and Veteran owned entities. 
 
Now that Advantage Illinois is in place, will this stop other entities from raising venture capital?
The goal of Advantage Illinois is to accelerate private lending, not suppress it. Although SSBCI is a large allocation from the federal government, the intent is to supplement credit that is available in the Illinois economy, not displace it. The State encourages all lending institutions and venture capitalists to increase their support of small businesses in all sectors.
 
How do I know which program is right for me?
A consultation with a participating financial institution will include an assessment of your current or potential business strategy, expected performance and a review of the way your business will operate. The lender should be able to assist you in finding the right program and maximize its returns. If your company is eligible for venture capital, the Invest Illinois Venture Fund has an online application that must be completed.
 
If you have a great idea but don't have a business plan, you can receive assistance at your local Illinois Small Business Development Center.
 
When does the Advantage Illinois program begin taking applications?
The application queue at both participating banks and DCEO for the Invest Illinois Venture Fund opens when the program begins on October 5, 2011. The number of participating financial institutions should increase over time.The Invest Illinois Venture Fund anticipates expending its remaining financial resources on opportunities currently within its pipeline. As such, the IIVF is no longer accepting applications at this time. A subsequent Fund may be opened sometime in the future.
 
What is the likelihood of an application being approved?
Advantage Illinois programs have been designed to accelerate credit distribution by helping lenders manage the risks inherent in lending to small and start-up companies. Whether you utilize a program through an institutional lender, or have a business plan and application for the Invest Illinois Venture Fund, the goal is to ensure timely, and an increased number of, private investments.
 
To expedite processing, applicants should make every effort to ensure that their applications are complete and include all supporting documentation, as applicable.
 
I have over 50 employees, is my business too big?
Most Advantage Illinois programs are geared for small businesses with 750 employees or fewer; for the Capital Access Program, applicants should have no more than 500 employees. Please check each program's guidelines or speak with your lending institution for specifics.
 
Is my bank participating?
Review the list of Participating Banks.
 
What if my bank is not participating?
If your local banker isn't familiar with Advantage Illinois, you can point them to our web site. If your banker isn't enrolled as a participating lender, and you have already developed a business plan with help from your local Illinois Small Business Development Center and are ready to approach the institution for a loan, you can email us at CEO.AdvantageIllinois@illinois.gov so that we can reach out to your institution regarding enrollment. Banks simply need to complete a Master Agreement or other similar document for each component they choose to participate in.
 
Where can I call for more information? 
You may email CEO.AdvantageIllinois@illinois.gov or call DCEO's Business Information Center at 800-252-2923.

For Lenders

To learn more about Advantage Illinois's programs email CEO.AdvantageIllinois@illinois.gov, or call DCEO's Business Information Center at 800-252-2923.