Contributed article by the Illinois Senate Democrats.
SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Andy Manar on Thursday challenged the state agency responsible for economic development to focus more of its attention on rural and downstate Illinois communities.
Manar (D-Bunker Hill) noted that there currently are 1,100 vacant jobs in Decatur and not enough workers to fill them. Most of the jobs pay well and come with benefits, he added. He said these kinds of challenges in struggling and impoverished regions of the state deserve more attention.
His remarks were made during an appropriations hearing with the Department of Commerce and Economic Development.
“I think a major challenge for the agency is how it injects itself into rural parts of the state that have seen poverty literally explode over the last decade,” Manar said. “I think it’s a fair criticism of the agency that, under multiple administrations, the rural areas of the state where the challenges are different and more difficult have just kind of been marginalized.”
Manar said a key to job creation and business support downstate is to have economic development experts on the ground in those locations who understand the challenges and are available to help solve them.
“We can’t do foreign trade relationships really well and not do downstate economic development really well and then say we’re successful,” Manar said. “We have to do both equally well to be truly successful.”