Creating and retaining jobs is a top priority as part of economic development efforts the Grow Decatur initiative is encouraging. Economic development was the focus of one in a series of meetings being held over two weeks in the Madden Auditorium at the Decatur Public Library. Training the workforce is part of what needs to be done, so education was a topic for a meeting earlier in the week.
The Midwest Inland Port has been a key economic development opportunity with great potential and promise for the community. During the meeting Friday, possible next opportunities were discussed. The solution could come in a number of different ways, with attendees asked to consider what should be the next focus area for building a stronger economic base. From fiber optic expansion to developing more of a local food hub, ideas were varied. Being Decatur-made certainly resonates throughout a number of opportunities being considered and products companies create in the city.
Organizers said no single solution exists to developing Decatur into the place it can be. Several areas of focus need to be juggled at once, said Bruce Nims, one of the co-founders of the group. Topics next week build on the larger umbrella of what is considered economic development. Creating a vibrant and attractive place to live as jobs are provided is a large part of what the group wants to accomplish.
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Upcoming meetings include housing in the city 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, June 15; grow the middle 7:30-9 a.m. Tuesday, June 16; vibrant and attractive 4-5:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 16; workforce development 7:30-9 a.m. Wednesday, June 17; 20 to 40 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, June 17; relationships 4-5:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 17; and recruiting 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, June 18.
In a separate meeting earlier in the week at Archer Daniels Midland Co., organizers of a new statewide initiative presented information about a plan that could enhance economic development throughout Illinois. FARM Illinois has specific implication for the region, said Larry Altenbaumer, another Grow Decatur co-founder and executive director of the Midwest Inland Port committee. The opportunity exists to build on the businesses that are already located here, Altenbaumer said. He said Decatur needs to be in a position to differentiate itself from other areas, which ties into what is being discussed during the Grow Decatur meetings.