April 18, 2016

Backstage at the Egyptian: An Interview with Cohen Barnes of the ABC Grant Committee

Cohen Barnes

Interview conducted by Brandon Pugh- Egyptian Theatre Intern 

Brandon: Tell us a little about yourself.

Cohen: My name is Cohen Barnes and I am the owner of Sundog.  Sundog supplies, secures and supports the technology in organizations that are 10 to 100 employees in size.  So their backups, antivirus, Mirosoft servers, and phone systems are managed by us.  For myself, I am a member of the America’s Best Communities team and I am the Project CEO for our Branding and Marketing Project.

Brandon: What is the ABC Grant?

Cohen: The America’s Best Communities Grant is a competition that started out with over 300 communities nationwide.  It is a contest put on by Frontier Communications, the Weather Channel, Dish Network, and CoBank to spur rural communities to strive for bigger things by incentivizing them to create revitalization plans that have the possibility of winning their communities up to three million dollars.  Right now, DeKalb Illinois has advance to the final 15 communities eligible for the grand prize.  On April 27th, we present a 10 minute pitch in front of a panel of judges in a shark tank like environment and that night, they decide if we move on to the Final 8.  If so, they will award us $100,000 to help move our plan forward and the change to go for the three million in the Spring of 2017.

Brandon: Who wrote the ABC Grant?

Cohen:  The original grant submission was written by staff and the mayor at the City of DeKalb.

Brandon: Is the ABC Grant process being over seen by city officials?

Cohen:  City officials, NIU administration, staff, and students, District #428 faculty, staff and students, and community members are all part of the ABC competition team.

Brandon: What will this grant mean to the city of DeKalb if chosen?

Cohen:   This grant has been a catalyst for many people and organizations to come together striving to improve our already wonderful community.  It has helped us raise the bar.  We have the opportunity to bring in millions of dollars of private money to help us realize our 7 projects for the betterment of DeKalb.  But it is bigger than that.  This competition has caused us to come together in a way that I believe will be transformative for our community.  It has shown us what is possible here in DeKalb.  That we can be inclusive, and this inclusiveness, will make the biggest long-term impact on our community.  By embracing our residents, our students, and all the diverse cultures in our community, we will bring opportunity and innovation back to the forefront of who we are.  It has been in our DNA and has manifested before here in the creation of Barb Wire to the creation of DeKalb Genetics.  Our community has had a direct impact on the world with our innovations.   Innovation is who we are, and I think we are just now remembering that.  We are not just a community with a University. We are not just a University in a community.  We are a Communiversity.  Education, creativity, and innovation are the foundations to our community.  And I am proud to be part of this community and this heritage.   #proudlydekalb

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