Why We Are Here

The Value-Added Sustainable Development Center helps community-owned businesses start up and grow, especially businesses in groceries, agriculture, and local foods.   A particular focus is on the rejuvenation of small-town grocery stores which are having to adjust to rapidly changing market conditions.

If your small-town grocery store is facing challenges, you are in the right place.  If your town has lost its grocery store, we can provide a roadmap to a new community-owned store.  If your group wants to start a food cooperative to provide local, organic produce to the community, we can help you get started.  If your community is interested in new options for community solar under recent Illinois legislation, then we are here to help.  If housing is a concern in your community, we can help with a housing assessment.

In all cases, we recognize that all communities are different and that cookie cutter solutions don’t work anymore.  Instead we guide you toward tailored solutions that fit your community’s context and your goals.

The Value-Added Sustainable Development Center is a unit within the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs at Western Illinois University.   However, our consulting isn’t about dry academic learning, it’s pragmatic and solution based, anchored in how your business operates in the real world.  Our team has many years of experience in grocery store management and ownership, retail operations, small business consulting, succession planning, financial analysis, and more.

We delight in seeing a new business formed, a community grocery store start, a business become more nimble, effective, and profitable, and ultimately, in seeing small towns grow and improve.

What Others Say

“The Center’s support has been invaluable to the Great Scott! Community Market (Winchester) as it has taken shape over the last year.  With the help of Sean Park and others over the last year, our grocery store has progressed from a good idea backed by a solid business plan to obtaining capital investment to …providing a town of 1,000 people with its only grocery store.”

—John P. Coonrod, President , Great Scott!  Community Market, Winchester, Illinois

“My company has been working with Sean Park on the shared goal of providing technical assistance and education in the field of solar energy … to folks in rural communities.  Our collaboration has been a great success.  The Center has truly been a pleasure to work with.”

—Patrick McElroy, New Business Development Manager, Tick Tock Energy, Inc., Effingham, Illinois

“I was recently hired as the Administrator for Delavan and the number one item, by far, that I hear is lacking in this community is a source for fresh fruits, vegetables, and quality meats.  The cooperative grocery store model seems to be the perfect fit for Delavan with the assistance of the Center.”

—Matt Fick, Administrator, City of Delavan, Illinois

“We are very familiar with the work of the Center and often reference them and their research when talking with grocers and community leaders about rural grocery retail.  We are enthusiastic about the potential opportunity to collaborate with the Center to improve our tools to assist rural communities in establishing grocery operations.”

—David Procter, Director, Center for Engagement and Community Development, and, Director, the Rural Grocery Initiative, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas

Get in Touch

Sean Park,
Program Manager

Kristin Terry,
Cooperative Program Coordinator

Whitney Miller,
Local Foods Program Coordinator