The sixth annual National Economic Development Week is May 9-15. National Economic Development Week was created in 2016 by the International Economic Development Council — the largest professional membership organization for economic developers — to recognize the unique role that economic development has in creating flourishing communities with strong economies. The Jacksonville Regional Economic Development Corporation (JREDC) is taking this time to reflect on the impact their office has made on the economic development of their vibrant Illinois community, even during the pandemic.
JREDC’s guiding mission is to create, expand, recruit and retain job opportunities for Morgan and Scott counties. The leaders of JREDC focus on these objectives with every plan, every project and every initiative for the greater good of the business owners and residents of the region.
While much work goes into achieving this mission, their action plan is rooted in one thing: building relationships. JREDC forges relationships with public and private sector partners, new entrepreneurs, education partners, and large and small regional employers alike. In order to do this, JREDC focuses on seven goals as outlined in the five-year Regional Economic Development Plan:
- Improve the Region’s Quality of Place
- Create an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem
- Strengthen the Region’s Workforce
- Help Existing Businesses Expand and Grow
- Develop Available Properties in the Region
- Constructively Engage Community-Based Organizations
- Pursue Development that Diversifies the Region’s Economy
- Throughout the pandemic, the JREDC educated small business owners about loans and grants offered to those negatively impacted by the global health and economic crisis. They served as a touchstone for guidanceand asource for trusted information.
- JREDC is working closely with the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) and community leaders in the upcoming year to develop a comprehensive plan for the City of Jacksonville. The first step is underway: involving the community as stakeholders with the Community Needs Assessment Survey.
- JREDC has advanced engagement with the community through newspaper and radio interviews, a re-instated quarterly newsletter, public awareness campaigns, volunteerism and an increased social media presence.
- JREDC’s new website proved even more crucial during the pandemic. JREDC uses it to market the region’s reliable public infrastructure; affordable housing and quality education; and availability and access to quality healthcare to attract new businesses to the region. The website enables JREDC to easily market available properties in Morgan and Scott counties. This was invaluable when it was impossible to meet in person with site selectors and realtors requesting information about these available properties.
- JREDC administers the Jacksonville Regional Enterprise Zone, now in its second year. The Enterprise Zone provides valuable incentives through sales tax and property tax abatements to qualified projects.
- JREDC is dedicated to improving the region’s high-speed broadband infrastructure. They were heavily involved in discussions with i3 Broadband to provide fiber service to Jacksonville. In addition, Cass Communications is currently building infrastructure to offer fiber to businesses and residents in South Jacksonville.
- JREDC works to develop the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem through continued promotion and support of the Morgan-Scott CEO Program and other planned activities. They are also committed to working with community leaders to develop a business incubatorand co-working space in downtown Jacksonville.
- While work has slowed on the Talent Pipeline Management initiatives due to the pandemic, it continues. In collaboration with the Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce, conversations are continuing with Lincoln Land Community College and leading manufacturers to imagine a workforce development program that engages high school upperclassmen in manufacturing coursework. JREDC also anticipates opportunities to increase workforce development efforts through the local Healthy Jacksonville Collaborative.