DECATUR (MCT) — Central Illinois officials gathered Thursday at Richland Community College to learn more about how the state could help them improve their communities.
Event organizer Tim Dudley, the Central Region manager for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, wanted community leaders to learn about methods they can use to be successful. Dudley encouraged them to take a regional approach to development efforts.
"We're all in this together," Dudley said. "The world has gotten smaller. It can't just be about a small community. We've got to start thinking regionally."
By thinking on a such a level, Dudley said Illinois could become a more inviting place for businesses to locate and not leave.
Various state agencies offer programs to assist communities. For instance, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has $1 billion available to provide for low-interest loans to cities as part of the Illinois Water Initiative.
"The demand for this type of project is high," Dudley said.
The city of Decatur has become involved with the program as it works to revamp the sewer system along Lake Shore Drive. Dudley stressed the job-creating aspect of those types of construction projects.
Various governmental units, including park districts, school districts, library districts, counties, townships and municipalities can benefit from the Illinois Energy Now program, said Carol Kulek of the Illinois Association of County Board Members. The program is funded by a charge on utility bills and is used to financially support projects that reduce energy use, she said.
The program has $55 million available in electric rebates and $30 million in natural gas rebates, Kulek said. Not all of what has been available has been spent since funding went into effect in 2008, she said.
Kulek encouraged members of the public sector to find a use for the funds.
"The goal is to keep the program going," she said.
The Illinois Department of Transportation has an economic development program to encourage job growth, said Denise Todd, a program analyst with the agency. She said it provides funding to pay for roadway access needed by companies that add jobs.
"No project is too small," Todd said. "It's all about keeping jobs in the area."
Todd said the department will match 50 percent of funding for local roads and provide all the money for improvements needed on a state route.
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