One of our primary responsibilities as elected officials is to ensure that taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely. In challenging economic times, this responsibility becomes an imperative.
A review of Tazewell County’s 2012 budget shows a significant investment in the Economic Development Council for Central Illinois. One might ask, “Why make this large investment when times are tough?” I would respond by saying that in more challenging times, you need an organization with the expertise and talent to help us navigate through these times. The EDC for Central Illinois has been a tremendous asset and investment for Tazewell County.
One area of expertise is the County’s revolving loan fund, available to new and existing businesses looking to expand. This loan fund, initially funded through the State of Illinois, provides small businesses access to capital in order to supplement their own funds and those from local banks. The EDC for Central Illinois helps qualify these entities, finds local banks for the businesses to partner with, and then brings this proposal before our board. The revolving loan fund is managed by the EDC and helps to retain and expand employment in our county. Over the years, this fund has helped dozens of employers and has seen just one default.
The EDC also helps Tazewell County in negotiating and navigating through very complex deals that help attract business to our region. They have helped us identify areas of our county that could be very attractive to businesses, but the zoning or roads are inconsistent with the needs of the employer. Having identified these areas, the EDC for Central Illinois works with the county and the State of Illinois to find solutions and funding.
The EDC has also developed an economic development handbook to walk communities of all sizes through the complex process of attracting business. The handbook was developed in part with funds provided by Tazewell County. Additionally, a regional economic summit was recently sponsored by the organization to help communities of all sizes better understand what our region and the EDC have to offer.
As Tazewell County works with the EDC, I am amazed at the number of programs that are available to local governments and businesses to encourage economic investment. One of our strengths as a county government is in recognizing where we need outside help because we lack the expertise.
For full disclosure, I am a member of the Economic Development Council for Central Illinois, as Tazewell County is guaranteed a seat as an investor. With that, I am convinced that without the EDC and its competent staff, our county would be missing opportunities to make Tazewell a strong economic presence in the region. The teamwork and partnership we have locally, coupled with our region’s natural assets and workforce, make for a very bright future in central Illinois. iBi