By Kristin Jamison
The Jacksonville Regional Economic Development Corporation (JREDC) decided that an unusual year like 2020 warranted a different set of guidelines for choosing its 2020 Harold Cox Industry to the Year recipient. In fact, not one but three entities were recognized with the award on Thursday evening at the organization’s investor appreciation event held at Waters Edge Winery & Bistro in Jacksonville.
Since 1990, JREDC’s Existing Industry Committee has presented the Industry of the Year Award to a company exhibiting outstanding business development and activity that enhances regional economic viability. To mark the leadership and guidance provided to the Jacksonville region throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Jacksonville Memorial Hospital (formerly Passavant Area Hospital), Morgan County Health Department (MCHD) and Jacksonville/Morgan County Office of Emergency Management received the distinction of being named 2020 Industries of the Year.
During a year of extraordinary challenge for everyone in the healthcare field, Jacksonville Memorial’s dedicated employees have been faced with physically and emotionally draining work and high volumes of patients. While it has been difficult to see friends and neighbors suffer from such a devastating illness, the hospital staff supported each other and worked together to meet the needs of their patients and our communities.
Working alongside Jacksonville Memorial staff to ensure the well-being of our community was the Jacksonville/Morgan County Office of Emergency Management. The pandemic brought the work of our local EMA to the forefront. Coordinating with private and public partners, the Office of Emergency Management took great pains to ensure the mitigation of risks and worked to set the foundation for a timely recovery.
As the pandemic has illustrated, the ongoing challenges and threats that can impact a community are great, which makes the partnership that this organization forges with all aspects of the community to provide planning, response and recovery vitally important.
One of the Office of Emergency Management’s most important partnerships is with the Morgan County Health Department. Over the course of the last 18 months, COVID-19 outreach has been one of the main priorities for health department staff. From communicating daily updates to providing testing, contact tracing and vaccinations, our local health department has been an indispensable player on the frontlines to ensure the Jacksonville region has the tools to carry with their daily lives in the safest way possible.
Also during the investor appreciation event, the JREDC recognized Mike Hayes and The Hayes Group with the 2018 Champion Award. The Hayes Group has been steadily growing its operations in Jacksonville since 2005, but its roots in Jacksonville go back much further as Hayes was born and raised in this community. His local entrepreneurship efforts began with a homemade ice cream shop and a communications group. Today, The Hayes Group of companies has grown to include over 400 residential units and several hundred thousand square feet of commercial space, including the former A.C. Humko plant, Dunlap Center and former downtown U.S. Bank building, as well as five buildings on the former MacMurray College campus.
The Hayes Group’s latest project is the Country Club Hills subdivision and Waters Edge Winery & Bistro of Jacksonville, located on East Morton Avenue. Hayes commented, “I was born and raised on the north and northeast side of this community, and I have always seen the east side of Jacksonville as an opportunity to grow the economic base for our town … We will continue to grow our presence in Jacksonville and work hard to provide economic and cultural growth for the city.”
JREDC Chairman Jodee Nell recognized the 2020 award recipients during her remarks. In addition, she wished to thank JREDC’s President Kristin Jamison and Vice President Bonni Waters for their work during such an unprecedented time. “We can all agree that 2020 was a year of challenges for everyone, but Kristin and Bonni adapted to the times, and spent countless hours educating and informing businesses of the opportunities for help during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Jamison and Waters worked throughout the onset of the pandemic, focusing a large part of their efforts on helping small businesses and nonprofits gain access to grant funding through state and local programs. More than $1.3 million in assistance was given to entities in Morgan and Scott counties, thanks to the efforts of the JREDC and community partners. The organization is currently serving as a Community Navigator through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s small business grant program.
The mission of the JREDC is to create, expand, recruit and retain job opportunities for Morgan and Scott counties. The investor-based group traces its beginnings to 1964 when the Jacksonville Area Industrial Corporation was formed with the objective of creating jobs by acquiring new industries and assisting the growth of existing industries.