DECATUR — The new year is a good time to stop bashing Decatur, its business leaders were told Wednesday.
“Stop letting everybody else tell our story,” said Ryan McCrady, president of the Economic Development Corporation, the featured speaker at the Greater Decatur Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting.
Supporting the Decatur Park District, Decatur schools and the advantages Decatur offers is what McCrady called “homework” for the business community.
“Your support of those organizations is what makes the quality of life better,” he said, stressing the message at the heart of the Limitless Decatur marketing campaign launched in 2015.
The Economic Development Corporation can assist new and growing businesses, he said, and while it isn't a Realtor or broker, can help with finding locations for expansion, data analysis and research, and offer a small business development counselor.
Businesses scouting new locations look for three main things, he said:
- A workforce who can perform the tasks of their business;
- Transportation infrastructure;
- Quality of life, which will help them attract and retain those employees.
“When you see marketing materials, the focus is on those three,” said McCrady, who also served as Decatur city manager from 2008 to December 2014. “That's what they're making decisions on.”
The Decatur area boasts a workforce of 533,000, he said, who live within 45 minutes, which is considered a reasonable commute time. That commute is free of tolls and traffic jams. Decatur also boasts an airport with the largest runways downstate, the largest railroad switching yard in North America and 95 million consumers within a one-day drive for a big rig, he said.
“Let's talk about the elephant in the room,” McCrady said, referring to the state's ongoing budget struggles. “Illinois. It's a convenient excuse to do nothing. Yes, there are issues, but I believe we will get them resolved. Illinois has competitive advantages.”
Decatur has some of the best utilities infrastructure, and McCrady said no business has ever complained of not having enough water, sewer, electricity or natural gas to operate, in spite of the fact that some of the businesses use significant amounts of those things.
“We have to stop tearing ourselves down,” he said. “Attitude matters in quality of life. In 2018, let's have a positive attitude.”
In recent months, Decatur has welcomed representatives from 30 different countries who were looking for business opportunities here, McCrady said. With the ability to provide customs clearing through the Inland Port and, if it becomes necessary, Decatur Airport, the opportunities are vast.
“If we expect success, we'll get it,” McCrady said. “If we expect failure, we'll get that.”