By RICK HAYES
MT. VERNON — —
Representatives from several state organizations and economic development consultants visited Mt. Vernon on Wednesday, getting a glimpse of the city's growth in the inner city in recent years.
The visit was in advance of the Southern Illinois Economic Development Conference being held today at John A. Logan College.
“In 2005, we became an Illinois Main Street community which became a real boon for us in giving us direction and in 2006 we hired an architectural firm from Nebraska and they developed a master plan for us,” said Cyndy Mitchell, executive director of Downtown Mt. Vernon Development Corporation.
“From 2010 to the present, we've had over $13 million in re-investments in the community,” Mitchell added.
City Manager Ron Neibert said DMDC was part of the branding process the city undertook recently that not only gave Mt. Vernon a new look but “a new attitude in the community.”
He added, “We're having a sense of unity in terms of the theme and excitement in how we want to present Mt. Vernon.”
Neibert said the city has had more than $1 billion in private investment projects over the last five years.
“We're excited with the things going on, particularly downtown,” Neibert added.
“That's awesome, that's amazing,” said Christina Rogers, coordinator of the Illinois Main Street program.
Rogers said downtown revitalization is important to the entire state.
“What's happening with some of these small towns is they're losing population and you're seeing a mass exit of your younger population. Revitalization helps attract the younger people back and attract businesses,” she said. “We're seeing a lot of interest coming back in the state with the revitalizations of downtowns. Mt. Vernon has been doing some incredible work with revitalization with their branding and it's breathed new life into this community and you can see with the investment going on here.”
In addition to Rogers, Wisconsin consultants Kristen Fish and Deborah Ersland, along with Kim Watson of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, visited Williamson-Asia, RARE, One Stop Flooring and State Beauty Supply Wednesday.
That same day, the state delegation visited Benton, Herrin, Johnston City and Carbondale.