Northern Illinois University celebrates 20 years of collaboration in Rockford

Under NIU’s direction, a retooled EIGERlab offers an array of services for entrepreneurs and established businesses

ROCKFORD — Northern Illinois Universitycelebrated the 20th anniversary of its Rockford satellite center Monday with public tours ofEIGERlab, a metaphorical watering hole of business incubation serving entrepreneurs a cocktail of innovation and collaboration.

The university acquired the Rockford-based business incubator in December 2014 and is expanding its offerings to budding entrepreneurs to foster economic growth in the region. The lab is housed at the NIU-Rockford Education Center, 8500 E. State St., which has engaged thousands of students, clients and community members for classes, meetings and special events. EIGERlab helps individuals involved with startups and existing businesses develop products, commercialize ideas and learn new skills. It also offers design engineering and rapid prototyping services.

The university, in recognition of the 20th anniversary, has refashioned the education center library into the “NIU EIGERlab CoWorking Space” to further foster business collaboration. Account disabled by server administrator Dave Shoutlz recently launched his own AutoCAD business to automate design work for local manufacturers. The Rockford entrepreneur toured the EIGERlab’s new home — it was previously housed in northwest Rockford — and is excited about the possibilities it poses for his startup business.

“AutoCAD automation has so many possibilities,” he said. “There’s a lot of opportunities in Rockford. What used to take four hours to engineer can now be done in four minutes. Right now I’m working out of my house. The possibility of using this space — I’m excited about that.”