Emerson Park Neighborhood Revitalization Plan

[ Contents ]


Objective: Expand Employment and Business Opportunities for Local Residents


Today, nearly half of Emerson Park’s residents live below the federal standard of poverty, the majority of which are children. About three-quarters of the available work force do not participate in the formal labor market and half receive federal welfare assistance. In the coming years, people who are unable to find employment will be cut from their means of subsistence in the name of "personal responsibility" and welfare reform. Opportunities for employment in the neighborhood and surrounding area are slight to none. Essential provisions for obtaining Metropolitan area jobs such as basic skills, employment history, available transportation and childcare are too often non-existent.

Emerson Park has another important reason to work harder than ever in these areas over the next few years. Very significant impending local market changes are foreseen in the near future which dramatically increase the odds for meaningful progress in the neighborhood. A light rail MetroLink station is due for construction in the neighborhood with a promise of approximately three thousand visitors daily. Related mixed-use development around the station is being called for and very significant residential development is already in the planning stages. In addition, the city of East St. Louis as a whole is improving with a better financial and governance situation, leading to lower taxes. Robust regional and national economies add promise as well.

A recent report by the East-West Gateway Coordinating Council indicates that the St. Louis region has created 66,000 new jobs since January of 1995. An interesting dichotomy exists between the region’s employment health and that of the inner-ring neighborhoods. Job growth is concentrated west of I-270 while the eastern neighborhoods suffer from extremely high unemployment. This dichotomy represents a mismatch between surplus labor and unmet labor demand. There are a variety of reasons for this mismatch including, skills, education, socio-economic differences, transportation access problems, underemployment and extreme poverty. The task is now to mold the impending changes to their maximum potential for neighborhood residents.

Existing Job Training and Employment Assistance Resources

There has been substantial funding of job training and employment assistance programs in East St. Louis for a few decades now. Like all communities in the United States, these programs have been subject to changing federal regulations, funding levels, requirements and evaluation criteria over the years. These programs have been a favorite political device over the years, often used to serve a variety of changing interests. The latest political winds have sought to favor consolidation over expansion, private over public sector involvement, states over localities and short-term evaluation criteria over genuine long-term, life supporting employment. These changing realities have modified the very nature of job training and employment assistance in local communities. Critics have contended that current programs pay too little attention to the "less job ready" and focus precious resources on those with a competitive advantage before going into these programs. That is, individuals are chosen for participation based more on job readiness than need. High school dropouts have been found to be especially underserved. Short-term placements with low pay are far more common than long term, sustainable employment as well. Dorothy Whitehead of the East St. Louis Employment and Training Center noted that programs would be more effective if local actors could play a larger role in goal setting and determining appropriate evaluation measures. All federal employment and training programs that received funding in 1997 are shown below.

Table 3.1

Federal Employment and Training Programs by Agency, Fiscal Year 1997

Department and program


(in millions)

Department of Labor

Job training and Partnership Act (JTPA)

Welfare-to-Work Grants

Employment service

School to Work







Department of Education

Vocation Education

Adult Education

Rehabilitation Services

Student Financial Assistance







Department of Health and

Human Services

Job Opportunities Basic Skills*

Community Services Block Grant*








Department of Agriculture

Food Stamps employment and training*



Department of Housing and

Urban Development

Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Community Programs

Community Development Block Grants










* FY 1995 spending

$27.5 billion


Despite the criticism of many of these programs, the resources outlined below have contributed significantly to employment opportunities for East St. Louis residents. It is anticipated that these programs will continue to assist the unemployed population.

1. Job Training and Partnership Act (JTPA)

The Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA), administered by the US Department of Labor, has by far the largest impact upon East St. Louis training efforts. It was established in 1983 to consolidate a number of previous programs and give more local, private-sector control over the use of funds. In Illinois, the JTPA is administered by (DCCA), and is operated at the local level in twenty-six Service Delivery Areas (SDA). Each area appoints a Private Industry Council (PIC) to review grant proposals and allocate federal funds to private training providers. Decisions about what programs to fund are made bi-annually and based upon a determination of regional training demands. In East St. Louis, JTPA funds over 150 job training programs through Metropolitan Community College, Belleville Area College, Beck Area Vocational College, John A. Logan College, Kaskaskia College, Vatterott College as well as various smaller private sector providers. Training is provided in numerous areas such as secretarial, business, computers, electronics, child care, industrial trades (heating and air conditioning repair, machining, aviation), medical positions, security, trucking and auto mechanics. Referrals to any of these programs must be made through JTPA caseworkers, who are available at the "one stop" Employment and Training Center at 646 N. 20th Street, East St. Louis. Eligibility for JTPA programs depends upon age (young adults are prioritized), level of education, family income and length of unemployment.

2. East St. Louis Employment and Training Center (ETC)

The East St. Louis Employment and Training Center (ETC) is a new, "one stop center" funded on a demonstration basis by the U.S. Department of Labor. Illinois is one of a few states that have received money for this project and have established fifty-two such centers. The East St. Louis ETC provides access to Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) and JTPA services in one location. Unemployed residents can receive information about their eligibility for JTPA and IDES benefits, such as transportation and child care costs, job training vouchers and educational assistance. Marilyn Stringfellow of the center has suggested willingness to work with Church and neighborhood-based organizations in coordinating any new job training or employment assistance programs. She also encouraged greater partnerships with EPDC to increase usage of the current ETC services by the residents of Emerson Park.

3. Department of Public Aid

The Department of Public Aid administers numerous Federal programs including TANF (previously AFDC), AABD, Medicaid, Food Stamps, Transitional Assistance, Family and Children Assistance and Child Support Enforcement. In addition, case workers try to demonstrate the value of choosing work over public assistance. Self-sufficiency is advocated through three programs: Project Chance, JOBS program and Earnfare. Project Chance and the JOBS Program provide TANF recipients more intensive case management, supportive services and referrals as compared to other supportive services. Grants are also awarded through these programs which can be used to cover "start up costs" such as transportation, child care, supplies, medical exams and even uniforms. Earnfare is a program for non-TANF clients who receive food stamps. They gain work experience through employers who receive Government subsidies in hopes of gaining skills toward finding independent employment afterwards.

4. Metropolitan Community College and SIU ESL Center

The Metropolitan Community College (MCC) training programs have undergone significant changes in the past few years. Much administrative reform and funding changes have occurred, affecting service provision. Job training has been kept a high priority but provision is expected to change in the near future. A process is currently underway which will identify what job training services are most needed in the region. Thirteen programs exist at present, all of which receive funding from the JTPA program. There are seven medical programs, four office-related programs and a child care and aviation program.

The Southern Illinois – East St. Louis Center (SIU-ESL) is also a JTPA contract provider of services, largely in the "basic skills" category. GED programs, careers counseling, placement assistance and follow up employment counseling to high-school seniors are all currently available through this center. A trainee for one of these programs has to register through the ETC Center or JTPA office. Steven Schneider of the St. Clair County Intergovernmental Grants Department, which administers JTPA funding, has said that MCC and SIU-ESL were the two most logical places to add any new training programs in the region.

5. School District 189

East St. Louis School District #189 has been working with the national, "school to work" initiative in recent years. In Illinois the program is called "Education to Careers." A group of leaders have been working in conjunction with area public schools, community colleges and area businesses to begin a "needs analysis" process. The goal is to better serve the needs of non (4 year) college bound students. School District 189 also provides classes to its students in a variety of vocational areas. These include child care, nursing, electronics, and aviation and automotive mechanics. Some include a summer work program as well. Many students involved in these areas are participants in a statewide initiative called "Tech-Prep" as well. At the junior high level, the "Work Experience Career Exploration Program" (WECEP) provides part-time jobs during the school day for 14 and 15 year olds, combined with regular courses for the balance of the day. The program is targeted for those having difficulty in school.

6. Enterprise Community/Enterprise Zone - (HUD and Youthbuild)

The East St. Louis Enterprise Community (EC/EZ) has been active in economic development and job retention efforts in the area. They are an excellent entity to coordinate any of these strategies because of their administrative capabilities and financial support. In recent years, the EC/EZ has been involved in the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s "Youthbuild" Program. Youthbuild has been a very successful program nationwide, but has struggled in East St. Louis. It strives to provide education and training in the construction trades to residents, aged 17 to 24, living in the area. The program is quite controversial because of the high level of funding it receives from HUD and CDBG. Unfortunately, the program was wrought with controversy and initial implementation was all but halted. The program has transferred administration from the Township of East St. Louis to MCC in hopes of a renewed effort.

The Emerson Park Development Corporation has recently applied for a "Youthbuild" grant. If awarded, EPDC will have the opportunity to employ and train local residents to participate in the planned developments throughout the neighborhood. The proposal, submitted April 30, 1999, would train twenty youth who did not complete high school in the construction trades and their GED.


A. Job Directory and Employment Newsletter

Many currently unemployed residents are unable to compete for available jobs in the metropolitan St. Louis area simply because they are not aware of the job openings and do not have the skills necessary to pursue an employment position, especially if the individual has had little interaction with formal employment.

The job directory would be developed as part of the "Youthbuild" program with the purpose of connecting local residents to jobs within the metropolitan area. The directory will serve as a two-part information database for Emerson Park residents. First, a computer-based database listing all available "employment-entry" positions available in the St. Louis Metro area would be created. The database would be updated regularly and would focus upon industries and positions that are attainable with limited employment history and skills. The database would be maintained by a part-time employee of the Emerson Park Development Corporation who will be hired under the "Youthbuild" program. The database would be available on-line and in paper format at several local community access points including Lessie Bates Davis, the Neighborhood Technical Assistance Center, City Hall and the East St. Louis Employment and Training Center.

The second part of the program would entail a newsletter being published. The newsletter would contain general job types available, the skills needed, local training opportunities and information on the job directory. Many of the resources listed in the beginning of this section would be included in this newsletter. It would be made widely available to neighborhood residents through grassroots, free distribution methods.

We are witnessing a time of tremendous change in the very nature of employment. Previously desired skills such as craftsmanship are giving way to new information technology and service sector intangibles like "office skills" and communication. New types of jobs are flourishing in industries that did not even exist just a decade ago. The Job Directory program would help residents of Emerson Park stay aware of the changes. The quarterly report would also serve as a reference guide for the area’s existing job training and employment assistance opportunities. This type of program would help fill the void in assistance for high school dropouts and individuals with a poor employment history. In the face of welfare reform, this type of program becomes even more critical.

Implementation Timeline: Year 1 - 2

The part-time jobs coordinator should be hired as soon as funding for the position is secured. Data on available jobs can then be collected immediately. The employment newsletter should be developed once the jobs directory is operational and there is community support and participation in this initiative.

Action Steps:

  1. Hire a part-time job coordinator through the Youthbuild program. This EPDC employee will create a database of available jobs, update it regularly, and create a newletter with information on the local job market.
  2. Determine what sorts of jobs should appropriately be described as "employment entry," or needing little employment history or skill. This stage should consist of consulting a variety of area newspapers, area industry leaders, local temporary employment agencies, the Illinois State Employment Service and social service professionals. Phone calls will need to be made responding to specific "help wanted" adds to determine the nature of skills needed for specific "job types" (i.e. delivery driver, carpet installer, etc). The available jobs could be grouped into "Job Clusters". These clusters have been developed by the Missouri Department of Economic Development as a way to coordinate employment efforts.

  3. Job Clusters

    1. Advanced Manufacturing

    2. Agribusiness

    3. Biomedical / Biotechnology

    4. Financial Services

    5. Information and Media

    6. Transportation Services

    7. Tourism

    Source: Missouri Department of Economic Development

  4. Advertise that the new Job Directory is seeking employment information from the St. Louis Metro Area. Advertise in all regional newspapers and with local businesses.
  5. Choose a format for the database. Microsoft Access, or some similar database program, should be used. The "query" function will allow for specific job searches by skills, location or wage. Cutting and pasting the online version of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://www.stlnet.com/classifieds/clhome.nsf) may be the most effective first step in this process. Using the Internet would allow for minimum repetition because sentences could be transferred directly from the newspaper to the database. An example of a Microsoft Access database is provided below.
  6. Job Type


    Job description and

    additional information

    Deadline for application



    Joe’s Auto Supply

    432 W. Slawson Ave.

    St. Louis, MO 43531

    Class A Drivers License and good driving history needed.

    Call 314-222-3334 and leave a message with Joe.

    Start June 1.

    May 25

  7. Develop the first round of job listings and provide the directory on-line and in paper format to a variety of local access points.
  8. Spread the word about the Job Directory throughout the neighborhood and surrounding areas by having resident volunteers flyer every house. The flyer should include when the database is available, the general types of jobs available, and who is eligible to use the directory. Advertise the directory in the East St. Louis high school and ask older residents to spread the word to their children and other young contacts who are seeking employment.
  9. Develop the format for the employment newsletter. When the Job Directory is operational, the part-time job coordinator should begin assembling information for the first Employment Newsletter.
  10. Conduct an updated regional job market overview, highlighting job types experiencing strong and expanding demand. These job types should be explained and the necessary skills laid forth. Regional training opportunities should be listed correspondingly. A representative from JTPA, IDES or the ETC should be able to provide this information easily. Supplemental articles describing area programs and services in detail or documenting success stories are also encouraged. Advertising for area programs, services or businesses (such as temporary employment agencies) should be sought after as well.
  11. Print newsletters for every unemployed, working age resident in Emerson Park (about 250). The desired length of such a newsletter is about four to five pages and could simply be photocopied and stapled. This can be done at either the EPDC office or NTAC.
  12. The finished newsletters should be available at Lessie Bates Davis, local churches, local retail sites, and the Public Aid office.
  13. The newsletter should be updated to reflect changes in the job market, advertise new opportunities in job training, and advertise new development projects in the city that are recruiting a large number of employees (i.e. Parsons Place housing project, Metro Link expansion, Casino Queen expansion).
  14. Evaluate the Job Directory and Employment Newsletter program on the following criteria:

Participating Organizations:


This program would cost an average of just over $12,000 a year. The hiring of a part-time jobs coordinator and newsletter creator would cost approximately $10,400 annually ($10.00/hr for 52 weeks, 20 hours per week). This program will need some basic office supplies every year including paper for newsletter publication, postage and computer disks. The Job Directory service should be advertised in the East St. Louis Monitor and other regional papers at an estimated cost of $1,000 per year.

Possible Funding Sources:


1. Employment Training Institute -

This organization specializes in the distribution of technical assistance materials to local training programs. They have a wide selection of "basic skills" materials including Videos, books, handouts, lesson plans and sample curriculums. The following materials would be particularly useful for this program.

2. Workplace Instructor Training -

A CD-ROM and workbook providing an orientation for college instructors to delivering basic skills classes in the workplace. (Available 6/98 for $50).

3. Community Wealth -

This page presents alternative ways of building employment opportunities locally to revitalize communities and generate income.

B. Jobs through Lot Clean-Up

The Jobs through Lot Clean-Up program would employ local residents through a city contract to conduct vacant lot maintenance and beautification projects. In order for this program to become a reality, the City of East St. Louis and St. Clair County should award a lot-clean-up and clearance contract to a group of Emerson Park residents who are currently doing this work during their personal time and using their own resources to beautify land that is not their property. This group of residents could clean and clear, for a fee, local properties, which have been acquired by the County due to tax foreclosure. St. Clair County assessor data from 1996 show that 45% of all parcels in Emerson Park are owned by the private sector. Many residents comment that these properties are often in the worst condition and that their owners do not maintain the vacant properties. The lot maintenance contract should be expanded to include these parcels, the County should pay for the services, and then the County should actively pursue absent landowners and charge them with the lot maintenance fees.

A second component of the Jobs through Lot Clean-Up program is the training and employment of local youth. Residents who have been involved in the contract work for lot clean-up and beautification can begin a training program for local youth who get paid a portion of the fee received from contract work. These local youth would gain invaluable experience in small business management, landscaping, maintenance, and civic pride.

A third component of the program is providing EPDC with the option to purchase the parcel(s) that have been cleaned-up through this program. This will undoubtedly be an easier process for lots that are owned by the city or the county. After an aggressive attempt to seize the property of absentee landowners, EPDC would then have the option to purchase those privately held parcels as well. Controlling the land in Emerson Park will be the ultimate empowering step. There is no greater wealth than holding assets and the greatest of these is land. With control of the vacant parcels, EPDC can create a community land trust to reserve properties from the speculative market and hold it for community purposes such as affordable housing, community gardens, and social services.

Resident perceptions of Emerson Park are largely determined by the visual quality of the land. Site Condition surveys conducted in October of 1997 found the majority of lots to be either overgrown or only partially maintained. Also, over half of all parcels in Emerson Park do not have buildings on them. So many of these open spaces are filled with trash, overgrown trees, rodents and insects, and other code violations (see Map 3.1). Residents view vacant lots as a major weakness of the neighborhood. These lots present threats to health and safety, mar the visual quality of the neighborhood, and provide a hiding place for criminals. Residents have expressed great interest in having these lots maintained as green spaces or prepared for the development of infill housing. Several residents have taken it upon themselves to abate the problems of vacant lots by collecting trash, moving lawns and cutting down 4-foot weeds. These lots are owned primary by St. Clair County and private landowners.

It is anticipated that the Jobs through Lot Clean-Up program will encourage in-fill housing development. It is very common in Emerson Park to see a beautiful and well-maintained house next to a trash and weed filled lot. If this lot was cleared and maintained then the value of adjacent properties would increase, the health and safety of adjacent households would improve, interest in developing a new home could surface, home insurance would be easier to secure and less expensive and community pride would rise.

Implementation Timeline: Year 2

This program is essentially a business plan for addressing the problems of vacant, unattended lots and local unemployment. The program should begin with a group of residents who want to secure a city/county contract for lot clean-up. The program of lot clean-up and collection of fees can begin as soon as the contract is secured.

Action Steps:

  1. Publicize the opportunity for residents to receive payment for lot clean-ups and beautification projects.
  2. The residents who already clean lots could go door-to-door recruiting other residents in this business venture who have clean-up and beautification skills.

  3. Invite interested residents to a meeting where residents who are currently doing this work talk about what the program involves, how to approach the city for the contract, and who is eligible to participate.
  4. Prepare a proposal for the lot clean-up contract. The proposal should include the following:
  5. It is anticipated that the Neighborhood Technical Assistance Center and the Emerson Park Development Corporation would assist the resident group in preparing the proposal.

  6. As a group, set up a meeting with the City Manager, Community Development Block Grant, and St. Clair County to discuss the neighborhood contract for maintenance services and present the proposal. It may take multiple meetings to negotiate the contract.
  7. Secure the contract at a rate that compensates the resident group comparable to professional private sector costs.
  8. Begin formal clean-ups using existing equipment, document everything in term of time spent, equipment used, and pictures from before and after clean-up.
  9. Collect fees from contract services, disperse income based on who did the work and whose equipment was used.
  10. Continue program until it becomes routine. It is assumed that this will take 1.5 to 2 years to assemble.
  11. Publicize the program to area high school youth who are interested in gaining skills in land maintenance and beautification, small business management, and community organizing.
  12. Hire local youth via an application process. The number to hire depends on how much work there is and how many the contract fees will support at $5.50 per hour.
  13. Train new employees on site and supplement with classes on small business management and community organizing offered at the Neighborhood Technical Assistance Center and the local schools.
  14. Evaluate program on the following criteria:
  15. Negotiate the purchase of cleared lots that are currently owned by the city of East St. Louis and the County.
  16. Research possible land trust alternatives with assistance from the University of Illinois and the Neighborhood Technical Assistance Center.

Participating Organizations:


Supply costs include mailing and copying of flyers and other publicity materials. Equipment will be purchased from contract fees. It may be possible to use city equipment as part of the contract agreement or to get some equipment donated by the companies that produce the equipment. The budget below assumes that the majority of lawn mowers (riding and push), gloves, chainsaws, weed whackers, and other maintenance items will be purchased in the first and third year of the program. Local youth will be paid $5.50 per hour from contract fees as well, starting in year 3. The budget assumes hiring 5 workers per year at 15 hours per week for a total of 12 weeks.

The vacant lots vary in size and severity of problem, so it is difficult to assess how much the contract fees should be. This needs to be determined by getting complimentary estimates from local companies. The budget shows $500 for securing this assessment. It is assumed that the equipment will be stored in the garages of the residents doing the work.

Possible Funding Sources:


1. Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI)
Contact Greg Watson for more information on cleaning up vacant lots and taking control of community land. (617) 442-9670

Map 3.1: Jobs Through Lot Clean-Up Program

C. Vendor Opportunity Program at the Metro Link

To take full advantage of commuters entering the Emerson Park community, as well as the economic attractiveness of areas served by public transit, this plan outlines a scheme to establish vendors or businesses, owned and operated by Emerson Park residents, at the 15th Street MetroLink station. Bi-State Development’s plan for the Emerson Park light rail station includes a "pad" of land adjacent to the platform set aside specifically for economic development. The goal is to gain use of that pad and occupy the four "bays" with resident vendors. Dependent on funding sources available, economic activity on this site should be phased in incrementally, by initially encouraging push-cart vendors and mobile booths or kiosks, allowing the commercial enterprises to become fully established. When construction is sufficiently financed, a permanent building can be built if the resident vendors prefer.

Concentrating commercial development around a transit hub encourages denser development, uses less land, and increases surrounding land values. There is also a good deal of security in planning retail near public transit, especially one with the high ridership record of MetroLink, as transit has historically attracted a sizable number of commuters and is unlikely to leave the neighborhood in the foreseeable future. The initial development and the operation of the light rail line will bring in more consumers and tax revenues (both sales and property), which will, in turn, spur higher ridership and thus more investment in the area. This creates a domino effect of investment and development. However, for Emerson Park residents to fully partake of this new development, it is important that they both own and operate the businesses at the station. Otherwise, commuters will enter their neighborhood and spend money, but residents will not noticeably reap the benefits because the money will then leave the neighborhood at the end of the business day. This would simply be a continuation of a problem that has plagued East St. Louis for more than a century: outside ownership of local businesses. Historically, this "absentee ownership" has robbed residents of the economic benefits of their land and labor and will do so again unless their active participation and ownership is held as a priority.

Implementation Time Line: Year 2 - 3

Vendor training should begin in Year 2, with a full year being devoted to training, recruitment, and business set-up. This program requires a great deal of EPDC staff time and significant technical assistance from local training providers. Vendors will begin work when the Metro Link opens in early 2001.

Action Steps:

  1. EPDC should gain development rights to the development pad or enter into a partnership with Bi-State to cooperatively develop the land.
  2. Discuss the development opportunity at a monthly EPDC meeting and receive feedback to gauge interest. From that meeting, develop a list of interested residents and existing businesses that may wish to relocate. Plan a follow-up meeting with this group.
  3. Facilitate second meeting of interested entrepreneurs and secure business interests that are compatible with transit-oriented development. These are usually service-oriented operations, most often including food services (including full meals, coffee and donuts and assorted convenience items), child care, laundry or dry cleaning facilities, duplication and printing services and newspapers and periodicals. These can either be established enterprises that wish to relocate or new businesses started by local residents. The University of Illinois School of Commerce and the East St. Louis Small Business Center should both be tapped for technical assistance.
  4. Secure financing for the economic development. Bi-State, the Enterprise Community, empowerment Zone and the Tax Increment Finance district are all good potential sources. After these options have been tapped, conventional financing from local banks can fill the gap. The funding search is conducted by EPDC staff and the NTAC.
  5. Train new vendors. The Neighborhood Technical Assistance Center can conduct a four-week intensive training program for vendors on how they obtain supplies, licenses, abide by health and safety codes, and make a profit. The St. Louis’ Vendor Operations Manuel or the Farmers Market vendor model may serve as good references.
  6. Provide business applications to interested residents and choose two to four for implementation.
  7. Businesses are operational when the Metro Link opens in early 2001.
  8. Evaluate the program on the following terms:

Participating Organizations:


The costs of this program primarily come from the costs of securing and duplicating training materials and the development of the retail pad at the Metro Link station. The NTAC or the Small Business Assistance Center can provide vendor training. Unless the tasks for EPDC become too burdensome, the work related to this project could be accomplished by a current position and would thus require no additional funding. Reference materials from other similar programs should be purchased for all participants. The cost of the commercial structure is still being determined (the budget below is incomplete). Acquisition costs should come from bank financing, private grants or public funds.

*Incomplete – acquisition costs are not available at this time.

Possible Funding Sources:

D. Promoting Retail Investment Program

While having economic development centered around a transit hub like the 15th Street Metro Link station makes good economic, social and environmental sense, individual scattered-site businesses may serve to further stabilize the neighborhood. Many older neighborhoods in the Midwest have some sort of neighborhood retail, but for most communities, the local mom-and-pop store has become a thing of the past. Residents of Emerson Park consistently sight the lack of jobs and lack of retail services as weaknesses of the neighborhood. This plan seeks to assist existing and new businesses in locating funds and technical assistance for expansion and building repairs or upgrades, as well as provide facilitation for cooperative advertising. The University of Illinois School of Commerce and local public assistance agencies, like the East St. Louis Small Business Assistance Center, should assist in the expansion and development of these businesses.

Maintaining local, small-scale, scattered businesses is a logical initiative for a number of reasons. Socially, these businesses provide a local outlet for food purchases or other service-related enterprises. This type of business creates a real sense of community in a neighborhood. Environmentally, neighborhood retail provides everyday goods and services that residents can purchase without using their automobiles for transportation. This cuts down on pollution and gas consumption, as well as street wear-and-tear. Since these businesses are to be owned by local residents, the profits obtained from the enterprise stay in Emerson Park. The limited number of businesses that would be located throughout the neighborhood and their scattered nature would also provide minimum disruption to nearby residential activities. The current and proposed neighborhood zoning promotes scattered site commercial districts at key intersections.

Implementation Timeline: Year 3

Action Steps:

  1. Create a reference pamphlet that includes information on all opportunities for retail investment. The pamphlet should assist businesses in securing improvement loans and siting new business locations within Emerson Park (provide the location of available land zoned for neighborhood commercial, the characteristics of the site, the land value and the current landowner).
  2. Arrange informal meetings between an EPDC representative and existing business owners. Indicate EPDC’s desire to assist them in expanding or upgrading their business to better serve the neighborhood and secure a greater profit margin. Distribute the reference pamphlet.
  3. Determine the interest of the business owner in such assistance programs. Invite business owner to a Small Business Development Seminar.
  4. Contact new entrepreneurs who participated in the vendor-training program (see Strategy C). Inform them of the opportunity to set up a small retail center within the neighborhood. Encourage laundromats, grocery stores, cafes, and other neighborhood resources.
  5. Consult with the City of East St. Louis’s Business and Commercial Development, Community Development Block Grant Office, and Enterprise Community programs regarding assistance and possible participation of those agencies. Invite those agencies to a Small Business Development Seminar. Ask them to bring information about the programs available through their offices.
  6. Hold a day long seminar with the East St. Louis Small Business Center and interested business owners/starters to discuss strategies for helping promote physical renovation, untapped markets, enhanced business operation and related training.
  7. Recruit University of Illinois School of Commerce class to work with individual businesses in creating a business plan. Assign a student to each business person.
  8. Approach local, county, regional, state and federal funding sources for assistance in subsidizing the activities included in the strategic plans of the businesses.
  9. Implement business plans with the assistance of the NTAC and the Small Business Center.
  10. Evaluate the effect on the amount of services provided, sales generated, new jobs created, tax revenue and customer satisfaction after implementation.

Participating Organizations:


The costs of the Promoting Retail Investment Program will vary depending on the level of improvements made by each business owner and the number of new businesses that start-up as a result of this program. These costs are incurred by the business owners through grants and low-interest loans. Costs to EPDC include the creation of a reference pamphlet for local business and entrepreneurs. The one day Small Business Development Seminar held in conjunction with the Small Business Center, is another cost incurred by EPDC in the first year of the program. It is recommended that EPDC conduct two rounds of business promotion in years 3 and 4.

Possible Funding Sources:


1. Patsula Publications -

This site provides information of how to start your own small business. It also has over 100 free guidebooks available on everything from developing a business idea to financing it to expanding a current venture.

2. Small Business Development Centers -

SBDC’s provide educational and research resources for small businesses. They help small business owners deepen their understanding of management, and they provide data and analysis that is generally beyond the capacity of small businesses to purchase in the private sector. SBDCs are located in all 50 states.

Document author(s) : Cathy Klump
Last modified: 23 September 1999, Deanna Koenigs