DECATUR — While the Decatur area continued to see a drop in unemployment, the number of jobs also did not decline for the first time in over a year, according to a report released Thursday. 

The positive news came hours before a forum at which representatives from the city and other economic agencies highlighted recent progress and identified what needs to be done to keep the city moving forward.

“One of the things we don’t always do a great job of is spiking the football, or celebrating our successes,” Deputy City Manager Billy Tyus said.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security reported Decatur’s unemployment rate for June at 5.9 percent, down from 6.6 percent this time last year. The Decatur metropolitan area had 51,500 non-farm job in June, the same number as in May and last June. 

The numbers followed several months in which the city's unemployment rate dropped, but the number of jobs did, too. 

“We have more work to do, but we’re building off the foundation that we’ve helped establish in recent years,” said Ryan McCrady, president of the Economic Development Corporation of Decatur and Macon County. 

While the even number of jobs reported can be seen as a positive, it also stands in stark contrast with most other Illinois metropolitan areas. Eleven of the state’s 14 metropolitan areas saw an increase of non-farm jobs in June, while Danville and Rockford both saw the loss of 200 jobs.

The local economy has seen its fair of rises and dips this year. The city's largest employer, Archer Daniels Midland Co., said last week that it would lay off an unknown number of employees. The company would not say whether the cuts would take place in Decatur, where it has more than 4,000 workers, or what category of jobs would be affected. 

There was better news from Caterpillar Inc., which reported strong second-quarter results on Tuesday, including promising signs for the Resource Industries division that includes Decatur's plant on North 27th Street. The company said in March that it would bring 500 new jobs to Decatur after closing its Aurora facility. 

In addition to the city and EDC, the forum united representatives from the Midwest Inland Port, Richland Community College and Workforce Investment Solutions.

All of those players work together to court new businesses, find employees and train existing ones to improve the overall economy, their leaders said. 

“Nothing gets accomplished in this community without the team you see here,” City Manager Tim Gleason said.

The victories they highlighted included:

While city leaders offered few details about future developments, McCrady said ongoing conversations with prospective businesses have been promising. He noted the potential of the Midwest Inland Port and the existing infrastructure as appealing items that set Decatur apart from its regional peers.

Tyus said while the recovery from the recession has been tough, he sees an upswing in the future economic prospects of Decatur.

“We just think that, while we don’t ever want to sugarcoat things, we think it’s very important to look at the reality in this community,” Tyus said. “And the reality is there are a lot of good things happening for our community.”

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Staff Writer

Government-watchdog reporter for the Herald & Review.

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