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A Publication of WTVP

The Heart of Illinois United Way recently partnered with the Community Foundation of Central Illinois to commission Bradley University’s Center for Business and Economic Research to conduct a community assessment.

This assessment reviews existing data from the six-county area represented by our United Way encompassing Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford, Marshall, Stark, and Putnam counties, with approximately half of the total population residing in the tri-county area. By reviewing statistical trends in the areas of race, age, education, income, and health, key findings were found in the areas of population growth, poverty, employment, education, and housing.

• Population growth in metropolitan areas depends heavily on immigration, resulting in increased racial and ethnic diversity. Since 2000, rates of growth in this six-county area have lagged behind the growth of Illinois as a whole, largely as a result of immigration rates that lag behind overall Illinois immigration rates.

• In 2003, an average of 10 percent of the population in tri-county households was living below the poverty level, with above average poverty among children and below average poverty among adults. Poverty rates were found to be the lowest among persons aged 65 and over.

• Employment in the area was relatively stable until the late 1990s. As a national recession began in March 2001, local manufacturing employment levels fell, but local health care employment grew. Within the past year, manufacturing has recovered sufficiently to once again rise above health care as the number one employment industry in the area.

• Education levels rose from 1990 to 2000 in the six-county area, with 85 percent of persons 25 and older having a high school degree or higher, representing an improvement from 78 percent in 1990. Educational attainment in the local black population is behind that of the white population, with 32 percent of the black population in Peoria County not completing high school, versus 14 percent of the white population. Review of reading performance scores for 2003-2004 reveals the majority of third grade students met third grade reading standards in 44 of the 45 school districts in the six-county area.

• Estimates of the 2003 vacancy rates of homeowner and rental properties in the tri-county Peoria area indicate the vacancy rate for rental properties was 9.4 percent, compared to the 7.9 percent rental vacancy rate for the state as a whole. The vacancy rate for homeowner properties was 4.9 percent, which is more than twice the 1.8 percent homeowner vacancy rate for the state.

Establishing community outcomes involves focusing on specific changes or benefits in particular geographic areas or population groups within the community. This research is vital for analysis and planning if we’re to make more informed and effective funding decisions. It’s important to take a serious look and evaluate where your community is and where it’s heading. For the complete 2005 Community Assessment, visit www.hoiunitedway.org. IBI

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