Who We Are
The Value-Added Sustainable Development Center (VASDC) is a unit of the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs (IIRA) at Western Illinois University. VASDC extends IIRA’s rural community economic development work to the sectors of agriculture, food, energy, and community sustainability. VASDC helps farmers, non-farm rural businesses, and community leaders excel by providing technical assistance and research on topics such as value-added and sustainable agriculture, local food systems, rural grocery stores, and renewable energy systems.
Through funding from the United States Department of Agriculture, a special unit within VASDC called the Illinois Cooperative Development Center, helps cooperatives and other community-owned businesses in Illinois start up and succeed, by providing technical assistance, training, and publications. Assistance is available to co-ops in any sector of the economy, as well as to economic development and business assistance organizations seeking to enhance their own ability to serve co-ops.
Sean Park is Program Manager of the Value-added Sustainable Development Center at IIRA, where he provides technical assistance and training on business plan development and business start-up to cooperatives and other rural businesses in all sectors, and administers IIRA’s overall outreach in the co-op sector. Sean has worked with IIRA since 2010, and his experience also includes ten years as owner-operator of an independent rural grocery store, seven years in operations management for a national corporation, and additional roles as a community college business instructor and a small town economic development director. Park is a Certified Business Advisor and has completed CooperationWorks! Cooperative Business Development Training Program. He received an MA in economics from WIU and a BA in economics from Southern Illinois University Carbondale.