(CARBONDALE, Ill.) Deborah Barnett, Ph.D., a lifelong resident of Southern Illinois dedicated to the region’s advancement, has been named as executive director of Southern Illinois Now (SI Now). SI Now was founded in 2020 to serve as a regional hub for economic development in the southern 17 counties of Illinois, focusing on supporting existing businesses, attracting and expanding businesses, developing the region’s workforce, and promoting the region’s business opportunities both within the region and beyond.
“This important work is a marathon not a sprint, but we can accelerate our first few laps by learning from others, further aligning our partners, and putting strategic, systematic plans and processes in place to get the work done,” said Dr. Barnett. “A regionalist at heart, I regularly promote and advocate for all of Southern Illinois and it is a privilege to lead SI Now into its next stage of growth and impact.”
Dr. Barnett most recently served as the director of the business incubator programs and associate director of the Southern Illinois University (SIU) Research Park in the Office of Innovation and Economic Development. In her role, she led unprecedented growth of start-up and early-stage companies within the business incubator and increased tenancy from 25% to 100% capacity with a waiting list, resulting in capacity tenancy for the first time in the incubator’s 30-year history.
“As Southern Illinoisans, we know what our region's assets are, but the magic will be to share them with those who can come to our region and invest. Deb checks all the boxes, and we couldn’t have picked a better ambassador to foster our region’s growth opportunities” said Rodney Cabaness, Co-Owner of Black Diamond Harley Davidson and SI Now Board of Trustees Member.
Dr. Barnett holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and is a two-time graduate of Southern Illinois University, with both a master’s and doctorate in Workforce Education and Development. Most recently, she completed the Delta Regional Authority’s Executive Leadership program at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
"Deb’s enthusiasm and passion for Southern Illinois is infectious. Everyone who has worked with her will tell you that she is a driven and collaborative leader who takes organizations to the next level” added Michael Tison, Treasurer of the SI Now Board of Trustees.
SI Now recently filed articles of incorporation to become a standalone not-for-profit corporation and continues to accept investments from local businesses. To participate or invest in SI Now, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.