Sean Park

Hometown: Beardstown Illinois, although I lived in the big city of Frederick IL. (pop. 100) Until I was 7 yrs. old

Undergraduate: Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, B.A. Economics (1990-1995)

Graduate: Western Illinois University, M.A. Economics (1997-2000)

Bio: I have grown up in a family of small business owners with both my grandfathers, my mother, my dad, my brother and myself all owning our own businesses at one point.  I advertised my first business at 12 years of age with my best friend providing yard work and light repairs.  We were able to set up an arrangement with a local bank to maintain all of their properties in the community.  I’ve been interested in business ever since.

My hobbies include martial arts, alpine climbing, and classic automobiles.  I spend the majority of my free time with my two children at track and cross-country meets, basketball, volleyball and softball games, plays and concerts. I have a son attending SIU-E as a freshman studying pharmacy and a daughter entering her Freshman year at Rushville-Industry High School.  In a sense we will have three freshman this fall and I think we are all a little nervous.

Relevant Professional Experience: My father and I purchased the small grocery store we both had worked at around the time of my college graduation.  During my 10 years as an owner/operator I attended WIU as a graduate student.  We sold our company to Niemann Foods in 2005 and I began working in management for Walgreens in the central Illinois region.  In 2012 I took a position with the Illinois Small Business Development Center at WIU as a small business adviser.  In this role I was able to use my previous business experience to assist entrepreneurs in Illinois in the creation and operation of small businesses.  I serve as the Economic Developer for the City of Rushville. I teach courses in Supervision, Advertising, Customer Service, Business Development and both Micro and Macro Economics.  I run the Value-added Sustainable Development Center, the Illinois Cooperative Development Center and the Wind Application Center for the IIRA.

The SBDC at WIU is part of the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs, a companion to the Governors Rural Affairs Council.  IIRA is a clearinghouse for information on all rural issues, coordinates rural research, and works with state agencies on issues of importance to rural communities.  My work at the IIRA has taken me into the area of food systems, particularly food desert remediation.  While field work currently makes up the bulk of my activities the areas of research and public policy are central to addressing the lack of access to healthy foods in rural and urban populations.

Research Interests: I plan to pursue the area of local food economics and promote the development of rural communities through the production, processing and consumption of local food products.

Honors and Awards: In early 2019 my colleagues and I received a Google Impact Challenge award for a program that uses a unique business model for economic development in the creation of Rural Fresh Markets.  These markets are designed to create jobs, renovate historic buildings, and bring fresh food back to communities that have lost access to traditional supermarkets.

Professional Affiliations: As an SBDC advisor I was (and currently am) a state Certified Business Advisor (Illinois Entrepreneurship and Small Business Growth Association).  I am also a Certified Exit Planning Adviser through the Exit Planning Institute. Exit planners assist with business succession planning.

Volunteer Activities: I am a volunteer with GROW Rushville, an economic development group in Rushville Illinois.  I am also on the Rushville Housing Committee and will be volunteering as the City Economic Developer as of July 1st.