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ISU Approves Trail East Incubator Space

Mary Cullen
The Illinois State University Board of Trustees approved a lease agreement for space in the Trail East Building on July 26, 2019.

Updated 4:15 p.m. | Illinois State University is officially a tenant of the planned Trail East Building in Uptown Normal.

The university’s Board of Trustees approved a five-year $168,000 annual lease for its startup incubator.

“It’s a dedicated space that brings together entrepreneurs, startup businesses, and the local community to incubate new ideas, innovations, and businesses,” ISU President Larry Dietz said at Friday’s Board of Trustees meeting.

Dietz said the incubator will not only promote economic development, but it’s also “an opportunity for those folks to not only begin their business here, with the help of a lot of faculty who will go down and coach them and mentor them, but to stay in this community.”

He said the incubator will be the first of its kind for the university, with the only similar opportunity for young entrepreneurs is the Small Business Development Center at Illinois Wesleyan University. Dietz said this office in Uptown will provide a space within walking distance for ISU students to learn and apply their skills.

The lease agreement includes funds to customize the space, but ISU will be responsible for an estimated additional $110,000 for annual operational costs. Everything will be paid for through university and grant funds.

Union Contracts

Two months after university union members voiced complaints to the Board of Trustees over expired contracts and low wages, workers say nothing has changed.

“Our issues still exist. Many of our members do not make a living wage,” Renee Nestler, a staff representative for AFSCME Council 31, said Friday. “Clerical employees are not valued for their longevity and experience. Many clerical staff find themselves trapped in the hiring range with no way out, and the strong possibility (that) a new employee could start at ISU earning a higher wage despite (having) years of experience themselves.”

University President Larry Dietz said representatives from both parties are working on a resolution. He had the same response about the contracts when union workers voiced concerns at May’s Board of Trustees meeting.

Nestler said the university needs to meet them half-way.

“We have been proposing progress on these wage issues for years now, but progress has been rejected by the university,” she said. “Because incremental progress has not been made previously, the progress that needs to be made now continues to grow and the standard 2% is not enough.”

Nestler said 150 of ISU’s 500 unionized workers make less than $15 an hour.

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