To more fully understand the mission of the North Central Regional Betterment Coalition, an understanding of our history might be useful.
In 2002 the regional workforce board, NCI Works, obtained state and federal grants so that something called a Community Audit could be conducted in its area which included LaSalle, Bureau, Putnam, and Lee Counties. A Community Audit is basically a SWAT analysis, in which the region is examined to determine its strengths and weaknesses with an eye on how to use that information to best prepare for the economic future.
In other words, it is clear that communities might very well benefit by retooling and reshaping themselves for the shifting economic landscape. Both state and federal levels of government believed this expenditure of tax dollars for a Community Audit would be a wise one.
NCI Works then contracted with Corporation for a Skilled Workforce (CSW) to carry out the community audit.
Late in 2003 the Community Audit results were released in a series of rollout meetings in the region to local government and business leaders. The report was titled State of the Workforce. It detailed why the North Central Illinois Region was going to be limited in its advancement due to three specific problems. They were:
- An abundance of low skilled low wage jobs
- A lack of people who seek higher education and
- A significant drug problem
CSW and NCI Works used those rollout meetings to explain these results, and to sound a call to action for those present to begin to address the problems raised in the Community Audit. A group of those individuals who heard that call on that day, citizens concerned about their community, formed initial sub groups and began to meet to identify and focus on the issues surrounding the major problems identified in the audit. The working name for the group that focused on the potential economic prospects for the region was Economy 2020. That core group of concerned citizens continues to this day on the Board of Directors of North Central Regional Betterment Coalition.
In 2004 the group began with brainstorming sessions and concluded with authoring two surveys. One of those efforts was called the New Economy Jobs Survey (NEJS). The NEJS was designed to learn from existing businesses what their prospects were for future hiring in the area of Information Technology (IT) positions. The other component was to learn from existing businesses what kind of linked, related, or complimentary business would be beneficial for local economic development agencies to try to attract to the region.
The other survey authored by the group was the Cool Communities Survey (CCS). In this survey the goal was to learn from graduating high school seniors what their plans were for their future. Specifically we wanted to know if seniors were going to leave the area for educational opportunities they could not get here, and if they were predisposed to ever coming back.
The Cool Community Survey also was designed to learn what the high school seniors liked about living here, and what they didn’t like. If we knew what they didn’t like, we might have a starting place for what kind of targeted improvements might help us retain more of our best and brightest. Finally we asked the seniors for their names and addresses and for permission to stay in touch so that as community improvements were made, we could reach out to them to share that story. Both surveys were posted on the web, with the hope that their targets would find them and respond.
In 2005, under new leadership, work began again with the focus of getting the survey questions asked and answered and begin building the trend. The first year results were posted on the web, and the effort of the group was nationally recognized by the Herman Report which is an HR consulting firm. Most significantly, for the first time in the region, an effort was born to begin the battle against ‘brain drain.’ The survey was successful in collecting the names and addresses of students who granted their permission to be contacted in the future. A first ever ‘brain drain database’ was created.
Also in 2005 Economy 2020
- Assembled a detailed list of potential jobs in the healthcare econom
- Assembled a detailed list of potential jobs in the tourism economy
- Assembled a list of Related Community Efforts operating in the region
- Identified Job Retention as a key area for improvement in local economic development efforts
These efforts led to assistance and cooperation in issues ranging from a new softball diamond for the Peru Park District to a small business incubator steering committee.
In 2006 Economy 2020 provided the leadership for year 2 of the Cool Community Survey, and began to build sub committees to focus on targeted areas. The sub committees included:
- a group to help facilitate a potential small business incubator envisioned for Mendota
- an educational subcommittee designed to encourage better educational outcomes from local schools, and to encourage and facilitate bringing 4 year college degree programs to our Community College campus locations.
- additional subcommittee work was undertaken to work to emulate best practices from other successful regions, and to conduct outreach activities.
2007 was a big year for Economy 2020 on several fronts. By mid year the results of the 3rd year of the Cool Community Survey had been tabulated and aggregated with the previous year’s results. Economy 2020 also brought together almost all of the Economic Development officials from the region to participate in a forum on Business Retention. Peer representatives from larger Illinois regions brought their experiences and insights on economic development business retention programs to share with the idea that the local officials could incorporate their best practices. The 3rd major event of 2007 involved the decision to formalize into its own separate distinct organization. Sub committee work continued throughout the year as well. During 2008 we invested our volunteer time to lay the ground work for building the NCRBC. Detailed meetings were held to develop the name, the mission statement, the business plan, the by laws, incorporate, apply for the IRS 501(c)3 designation, the web site, all while keeping focused on the mission. We want and need support from every organization and community minded individual from all corners of the three county North Central Illinois Region. We hope you will join us!