Business Resource Networks
The five Business Resource Networks (BRN) are a free resource that assist local companies to grow their business, become more productive and create more jobs.
Computers and the Internet are more important than ever for businesses to attract customers, streamline operations and increase profits. For many small- and mid-size firms, however, finding the time and expertise to get up to speed on the best technology for their needs is difficult, especially in fields that have not traditionally used computers and for businesses in low- and moderate-income communities.
The Smart Community Business Resource Network helps local firms find the right broadband services and applications for their needs and the best software, hardware, databases and other computer resources.
Free help to local firms
Access to the BRNs is open to small- to mid-sized businesses within each of the Smart Communities. The network serves start-up companies and existing firms, those with one employee or 500, and covers all types of firms, including retail trade, construction, professional services, health care professionals, food and lodging, entertainment, manufacturing, wholesale, transportation, warehousing, telecommunications and more.
The five Smart Community BRNs offer a wide array of free services, including:
- Technology Needs Assessments and Technology Action Plans help local firms learn what can help them compete in the local and global marketplace.
- One-on-One Technical Assistance and Quarterly Training and Workshops cover everything from accounting software to secure wi-fi routers, from video conferencing to creating a website.
- Technology Referrals point business owners to technical resources in the community and in Chicago.
- A Smart Community Web Portal is live in each community, with opportunities for marketing and information transfer to local and citywide customers.
- Broadband Access and Free Hardware and Software are available to get firms the tools they need, after completion of training.
- An Online Resource Center that gives small business owners guidance for technology and more.
Each of the Smart Communities operates its own Business Resource Network, linked by common resources and support but able to modify services based on local needs.
Ongoing assistance, future plans
The BRNs are now conducting technology needs assessments and one-on-one counseling for local companies. They’ve developed a technology resource list for business owners and started website directory listings on the community portals.
By the end of 2012, the five Business Resource Networks will provide assistance to approximately 1,000 local businesses, including tech assessments for 360 business owners, technology plans for another 60, and trainings for 160 others.
For more information
To learn more about the Business Resource Network program, contact LISC/Chicago. Or to learn more about the programs and services in a neighborhood, please contact the Business Resource Network manager for the community.