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BERG: Securing our county’s economic future

First of all, thank you for the positive responses regarding the “Dining with Dustin” pieces at the beginning of the year.

That said, I’d like to change gears to widen out the scope beyond food and talk about all sectors of Hancock County and what Hancock County Economic Development Corporation has been doing in recent months.

One project you might have heard about is the Hancock CEO Program. If you haven’t heard, it’s a program (offered to all four high schools) designed to teach juniors and seniors the necessary life skills to start their own businesses. Not only does it focus on teaching kids personal responsibility, but it shows them that our own county has many opportunities to offer in the pursuit of success.

The kids have spent the first quarter of the school year touring local businesses and hearing from local business leaders. Next quarter will be spent working on a class business, and next semester they will be making business plans and starting their own businesses. HCEDC put forth the seed money and worked in partnership with Carthage Community Development, Carl Sandburg College and local business leaders to make Hancock CEO happen.

Western Illinois Works is another group HCEDC has partnered with to the gain of Hancock County. One of the most recent projects we worked with them on was a career fair Oct. 8 at Southeastern High School.

I want to recognize the businesses that participated. From Hancock County we had Western Illinois Electric Co-op, Marine Bank and Memorial Hospital in attendance. From outside Hancock County we had Hollister Home, Unique Staffing Agency, Operating Engineers Local 649, John Wood Community College and Wesley Village attending.

Our response from the businesses, students and Southeastern faculty was positive. Most of the businesses said they had not been to a career fair at a high school before with colleges being the traditional venue. My thought on the matter is that we want students looking at careers and thinking strategically as early as possible. By the time they are in college, the kids may have invested a considerable amount of resources and effort into something that may not be the best way to reach their career goals.

With things like that in mind, the HCEDC tries to reach out to the youth as much as possible. We will conduct career and job fairs at any high school in Hancock County that would like to host one. We will continue to support the Hancock CEO Program in any way that we can.

I don’t mean to sound cliché, but these children are our future business owners and workforce. Our economic future depends on them making informed decisions about careers.

To continue let’s widen out to the tri-county area. Hancock County, Lee County, Iowa, and Clark County, Mo., are taking part in the USDA-sponsored Stronger Economies Together Program. We held a forum Sept. 30 in Keokuk, Iowa, and our first planning session Oct. 23.

If any of you have taken part in a strategic planning process or Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs’ MAPPING program, then you know the type of process the SET program involves. The forum was an identification of our area’s strengths and weaknesses.

The first session involved the participants reviewing economic data for the region and determine what we want to focus on improving. The following sessions will build upon this, with the end result being a plan written out for the economic improvement of Hancock, Lee and Clark counties.

If you’d like to know more about Hancock County Economic Development Corporation, check us out on Facebook. Our website is www.growhancock.com. 

Source: Journal-Pilot Hancock County 

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