The mayor of Normal said regional efforts to pull together on economic development have never really happened.
Chris Koos said during a mayoral forum on WTVP Public Television there is a lot of regional horsepower in Champaign-Urbana, Peoria, and Bloomington-Normal.
“There have been false starts. We've all had our economic development organizations that we've struggled with and and their missions,” said Koos. He said he believes cooperation in lieu of competition is how communities leverage their strengths, but central Illinois communities have not done this well in the past.
Koos cited the length of Interstate 74 through central Illinois as ripe for agreements.
“Peoria is the hub of manufacturing in Illinois. Bloomington-Normal has finance and education. Champaign-Urbana has a research university there; there's a lot of horsepower along that corridor. And we've never really done a good job of pulling that together,” said Koos.
He also said cooperation can benefit central Illinois communities economically.
“You know 80% of the economic activity in the United States is done in cities,” said Koos. Jeremy Nowak’s book, “The New Localism: How Cities Can Thrive in the Age of Populism,” is applicable to central Illinois’ current economic development, according to Koos.
“[The book] talks about the dysfunction of the federal and state governments, and in the United States, and where things are happening, where things are getting done, where businesses are thriving are in cities,” said Koos.
Bloomington and Normal have strengthened their development arms. The Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council is in search of a new director and revisioning process.
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