The Jacksonville Regional Economic Development Corporation honored two organizations last night for its annual investor appreciation night.
The 2021 Harold Cox Industry of the Year is Illinois College. President Kristin Jamison says that Illinois College’s growth at a time during small liberal colleges are closing all across the country shows the strength of the institution. She also says that the college is a vital economic engine for the region: “We are just really excited about the forward movement of Illinois College in the last couple of years, especially given such a difficult time in the state of small liberal arts colleges across the country. In fact, they have increased their enrollment by 21% during a really difficult time and increased course offerings offering more to their student body.”
Jamison also noted the new construction at Crispin Hall as another sign that the college is growing.
The Champion Award for 2021 was awarded to the Morgan County Fair Association. The Champion Award is given to an entity that does not have economic development as its primary purpose.
Jamison says that the Fair Association’s work at the fairgrounds over the last several years, though, has developed the local economy by attracting many people from outside the region to come to Jacksonville: “The [Fair’s] live concerts have brought thousands of people to Jacksonville every summer. Updates to the 4-H building, the pavilion, and the grandstand bring other events to our community that might not otherwise be held here. Certainly, the year-round livestock shows are extremely important to the Morgan County Fair Association. The Fairground in general with the dirt track racing – it’s been around for decades – is now certainly now on elevated level now that the races are being televised nationally.”
The meeting last night also noted several recent accomplishments by JREDC including successfully adding the former MacMurray College campus to the Enterprise Zone, collaborating with the City of Jacksonville and the Illinois Housing Development Authority to complete a Community Revitalization Project, and helping facilitate nearly $3 million in local, state, and federal grants to small businesses as a Community Navigator during the pandemic. JREDC is also working with the Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce to pilot a program to connect area high school students to jobs in the manufacturing sector.
Jamison says there are more exciting economic announcements on the horizon for the region, but the night was meant to focus on JREDC’s appreciation of its investors and the two award recipients’ exemplary work in the region.