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SHELBYVILLE — More than 50 Shelbyville residents are spending their Tuesday nights trying to find a new and better direction for their community.

The group is participating in a program called MAPPING, or Managing and Planning Programs Involving Non-Metropolitan Groups, a program developed by the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs at Western Illinois University. Other communities in Central Illinois have participated in the program, including Bethany, Stewardson, Strasburg, Arcola, Arthur and Mattoon.

Program manager Gisele Hamm said the purpose of the MAPPING training is to help communities identify their strengths and weaknesses and set priorities for community development. She told the group Strasburg has used the planning to attract new business, develop an aggressive plan for recruiting new residents and branding the community. Hamm urged the Shelbyville group to think in terms of “BHAGS.”

“Those are big, hairy, audacious goals,” Hamm said. “Things that are so big that they can’t be accomplished in one year. These are the ideas of what you want your community to be in 10 to 30 years.”

Participants brainstormed a variety of ideas, including developing tourism at Lake Shelbyville and reducing the community’s carbon footprint. Two members of the group paying particular attention were Mayor Roy Shuff and city council member Jeff Johnson.

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“It’s important to listen to what people are saying they want for Shelbyville,” said Shuff. “My job isn’t to impose my own ideas but to listen to other peoples’ ideas and priorities and then to find a way to reach our goals.”

The program is being paid for by the city and a group of sponsors. The Shelby County Economic Development Council brought the idea to the city.

“It’s worked in other towns,” Economic Development director Dave Young said. “It is a great opportunity that we really wanted Shelbyville to take advantage of.”

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