QUINCY – Speaking before a crowd of business, labor and civic leaders, and local legislators at the Oakley- Lindsay Center, Governor Rod Blagojevich unveiled his sixth of ten new major economic plans to spur growth in the region and across the state. The Governor’s initiative, Opportunity Returns, is the most aggressive, comprehensive approach to creating jobs in Illinois’ history. This grassroots plan is a product of significant outreach over the past several months throughout the region, with business, civic and labor leaders, and government officials.
“The people who know best what places like Quincy, Macomb, and Galesburg need are the people of Quincy, Macomb, and Galesburg. So we created this economic development plan at the grassroots level from the ground up,” Governor Blagojevich said. “We’re starting something new, something historic, an economic development plan that I believe has the power to bring new and lasting prosperity to this part of our state. We will work night and day to put people back to work, to create opportunity and economic growth, and to make sure that Western Illinois will be and will remain a great place to work, to live, and to raise a family.”
The Governor’s Opportunity Returns plan for West Central Illinois consists of six primary goals to address the economic and workforce development needs of the region: improving infrastructure and public transportation, increasing business retention, promoting entrepreneurship and education, investing in renewable energy and the environment, strengthening education and job training, and promoting regional tourism.
The West Central region includes Adams, Brown, Hancock, Henderson, Knox, McDonough, Pike, Schuyler, and Warren counties.
The Governor announced more than 40 major initiatives and grants to counter job loss and spur economic development in the West Central region, including:
· Investing more than $90 million to upgrade the area’s transportation network. According to regional leaders, this was the top need in the West Central region to promote growth in the local economy. The funding will be invested in highway, rail, and airport improvements, including $52.6 million to expand Route 34 from Carman Road out to Township Road 66, $30 million in funding to building an Illinois 336 western bypass around Macomb, which will eventually connect Illinois 335 to US 67, $5 million to widen US 67 to four lanes from highway 101 to south of Rushville, and $3 million to make road improvements around the new Archer Daniels Midland Plant at Illinois 57 and Radio Road, and $65,000 in marketing grants to Quincy Municipal Baldwin Field Airport to help them promote their airport services and the adjoining Baldwin Business Park.
· Extensive efforts to replace the jobs lost in Galesburg as a result of the Maytag plant closing. The state will commit up to $1.5 million for the creation of the Galesburg Transition Training Center, which is the first time Illinois has established a comprehensive and dedicated community-based training center to address the transition needs of entire families affected by plant closings, not just the workers losing their jobs. Additionally, the state will pool its resources to support investment in the redevelopment of the Maytag facility.
· Investing $12 million in upgrading and renovating Memorial Hall at Western Illinois University, including providing each classroom in the building with wireless communication access.
· Providing $1.3 million in funding to make major infrastructure upgrades in the Galesburg area, including expanding the capacity of the Galesburg Sanitary District and Knoxville Water Treatment Plant. Galesburg has plans in place to build a dynamic new business park, but the plans cannot go forward until significant, long-needed improvements in its infrastructure are made.
· Allocating $300,000 to open new entrepreneurship centers in Galesburg and Quincy to help the region capitalize on the emerging industries of biotechnology and value-added agriculture.
· Investing $250,000 in a new large-scale wind farm in Pike County, helping to produce 4.35 million kilowatt-hours of electricity each year.
· Providing $200,000 to fund the development of a 35,000 square foot building that will house both the National Railroad Hall of Fame and the new Galesburg Railroad Museum. The chosen site is strategically located next to the Children’s Museum and the nearby home of Carl Sandburg, giving rise to a museum district in the heart of Galesburg.
· Helping sponsor a 10-day bike ride through the state’s river country, from Rockford all the way down to St. Louis. The event should attract thousands of cyclists, and the towns along the tour’s route will benefit from the increase in revenue, employment, and exposure.
· Continuing the state beautification program launched by First Lady Patti Blagojevich. This initiative promotes local tourism by providing grants for wildflower plantings at major highway interchanges, state entrances, and community gateways. The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) will work with the local municipalities of Quincy and Galesburg to begin planting wildflowers at their communities’ gateways this spring.
“We’re going to have to work hard together for every new job and every new investment. There will be successes; there will be setbacks. But our resolve will never fail. And our commitment to the hardworking men and women of this region, and throughout Illinois, will never fade. Together, I know we can do it,” Governor Blagojevich concluded.