Vision 2020 Southwestern Illinois was initiated in May 2009 by the Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois in concert with the Madison-Bond and MidAmerica workforce investment boards, county board chairs and regional leaders across a seven-county area. It was conceived as an opportunity for Southwestern Illinois to accomplish three key objectives:
understand and define the region’s economy;
determine the economic opportunities and priorities for the region, and
identify strategies for achieving those priorities in the next 10 years.
To achieve its objectives, Vision 2020 sought input from hundreds of public and private stake holders from throughout the broader Southwestern Illinois region via one-on-one interviews, surveys and focus groups. The seven Illinois counties represented include Bond, Clinton, Madison, Monroe, Randolph, St. Clair and Washington. The process also included the collection, review and comparison of data from similar areas throughout the Midwest, and interviews with representatives from those areas.
Respondents further identified the need for a united voice on regional economic development issues and for the creation of an identifiable brand for Southwestern Illinois.
The region’s existing strengths include significant energy-producing assets (i.e. bio-fuels, electricity generation, petroleum refining); a highly developed transportation infrastructure; a continued presence of heavy industry; a skilled, experienced and motivated workforce; quality education system; strong healthcare delivery system and an unmatched location.
The main challenge for the region is to be able to mobilize these strengths and resources so that Southwestern Illinois can compete not just with other Midwestern regions but also on a global basis, expanding global exports and attracting investment from international corporations.
Six key cluster areas that have been identified as opportunities for future growth align with the region’s confirmed strengths and include allied health, energy, heavy industry, light industry, logistics and transportation, and agriculture.
Among the most promising clusters due to existing infrastructure and/or significant capital investments are allied health, energy and logistics and transportation.
In addition to pursuing growth opportunities in these sectors, the regional effort also needs to focus on redevelopment opportunities and on retaining and strengthening those existing enterprises that have been drivers of our economy in recent years, such as Mid-Coast Aviation, U.S. Steel and ConocoPhillips.
There is a need for increased emphasis on innovation and entrepreneurship and for expanding the role of institutions of higher education as economic development engines as they promote entrepreneurial skills and technology transfer.
Education and workforce initiatives will need greater alignment with the sectors of our economy with the highest potential for growth – healthcare, energy and transportation/logistics.
Continued coordination and collaboration will be critical to ensure the development of successful implementation strategies based on the Vision 2020 recommendations.
The Vision 2020 process identified potential initiatives and strategies to advance our region. The next step is to engage individuals beyond the boundaries of the original organizations in prioritizing those initiatives and strategies to guide the region’s overall economic development strategy for the upcoming decade.
We will also need to collaborate on the creation of an identifiable brand for the region and to secure the resources necessary to promote that brand to support the region’s economic development efforts.
To see the complete report, visit www.siue.edu/vision2020