When Progress City was first envisioned, its purpose went well beyond just being home of the Farm Progress Show. In conjunction with the master plan for Richland Community College, its purpose was an economic development project that included the location of the exhibit field as well as a portion of RCC property.

Major exhibitors at the Farm Progress Show would be encouraged to build permanent facilities that could be used year-round. Ideas included sales and marketing offices that could serve a regional staff. Meeting facilities that could serve farmer events to learn about new technologies. But alas, some technical issues got in the way and development of the property has been slow to occur.

The 2019 Farm Progress Show opened to farmers who saw a substantial new array of structures, which exhibitors have found they could construct to avoid the issues of the past. Hopefully, there will be many more initiatives that will further enlarge Decatur’s footprint into the world of agribusiness.

And that may be happening.

The collaboration of the Howard Buffett Foundation, ADM, and Decatur Public Schools to expose students to the world of agriculture may just be that next step to put Decatur into the mind of corporate agribusiness executives. Their sales and marketing staff know about Decatur via the Farm Progress Show.

Now, the folks who have long-range views for their companies should be able to look at Progress City and envision a new opportunity for their firm. Not just putting up a new building and far from handing out seed company caps, some forward thinkers will be able to see a future workforce developing in Decatur with an attitude toward agribusiness.

Upwards of 2,000 students visited the Farm Progress Show this year from Decatur and Macon County alone. The FFA members in rural school districts already have had some exposure from living in a rural area. But the new urban students attending agriculture education classes at Eisenhower and MacArthur High Schools, along with the seventh graders who made the trek to Progress City, also had the opportunity to look a future employer in the eye to see job opportunities.

But don’t stop there. Imagine the corporate memos flowing through the human resources departments about Decatur, Illinois, and its students who attended the Farm Progress Show. Decatur will become earmarked as a location to find prospective employees in years to come.

Instead of young people, who grew up on Main Street or Rural Route 4, searching for any job to earn gas money, those young people of Decatur may be sought out for internships to work for Deere, Pioneer, and others because those firms knew that Decatur had agribusiness in its bloodstream.

They know that Decatur welcomes Farm Progress Show exhibitors, and they should soon realize that its youth have the attitude companies need to become first-rate employees and future executives.

Kids, get your resumes ready.

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Stu Ellis is an observer of the Central Illinois agriculture scene. In addition to his weekly column, you can view his “From The Farm” and “Harvest Heritage” reports on WCIA 3 News.



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