September 30, 2020
Grant funds made available for small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic have helped a Champaign County business successfully adapt to the changing landscape in their industry. With assistance from the RPC, Champaign-Urbana Adventures in Time & Space received COVID-19 Layoff Aversion grant funding through the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity (DCEO) and reopened to customers in early July.
Located in downtown Urbana, CU Adventures in Time & Space is the largest escape room facility in central Illinois. They offer immersive multi-room games designed for fans and veterans of escape rooms, and are often rented out for college social events, family outings, birthdays, bachelor/bachelorette parties, and even corporate team building activities. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, forced owners Chris and Anne Lukeman to get creative and extend their offerings to digital escape rooms, something the Layoff Aversion grant funding helped them accomplish.
The Lukemans used the Glow forge, an approved item on the Layoff Aversion grant, to make props for the Deluxe Edition of their acclaimed at-home game, “The Lost Temple.” They were also contacted by the Pygmalion Festival to produce a virtual escape room for the festival’s online-only event this year.
“Making the props for the at-home game and producing the virtual escape room for the Pygmalion Festival absolutely would not have been possible without this grant providing the funds for the back-end technology,” says Chris Lukeman.
“We were able to reopen our in-person games in early July, and have been at about 25% capacity since then, which isn’t too bad.”
Earlier this year, grant funds were made available to support small businesses in East Central Illinois practicing a number of layoff aversion activities. The funds had to be used to mitigate layoffs and adhere to social distancing provisions established by federal and state public health entities. This grant program was funded by the U.S. Department of Labor under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).
“We are extremely happy to see our local businesses benefit from the Layoff Aversion funds in these trying times,” says RPC Economic Development Planner Sukanya Sharma. “This rapid response grant responded to the needs of businesses and aided with the creation of layoff aversion strategies.”
The RPC helped businesses presenting these strategies in the writing and submitting of grant applications, enabling them to quickly adapt by going online or launching new products. All funded projects had to produce measurable outcomes including the number of jobs saved, estimated amount of annual wages saved, and other project-specific results. “Success stories like that of CU Adventures in Time & Space motivate us to work harder for the businesses in our community,” says Sharma.