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The first time I had a conversation
with Rob Orr was seven summers ago. Well, it wasn't really a
conversation. Rob was conversing with me. I, on the other hand, was
My partner at the time, Bill Haak, and
I were getting the old Doty's Jewelry store in the Arcade ready for
our antiques store. It was a day when I was writing six checks to
six different entities that my carefully crafted business plan had
not realized would need my largess. It was just after balancing a
new checkbook with all kinds of withdrawals but not one deposit that
Rob walked through the door.
Rob was dropping off a chamber
membership package and was enthusiastically trying to get the store
to become a member. I cannot recall my exact words, but they were
something along the lines of: Why should I give you any money? What
the heck will the chamber do for me? and on and on till I flopped
the packet on the counter and told Rob I would think about it. Still
polite, Rob said he would stop by another day. I am quite certain as
he left the store that he must have felt he had just met the biggest
donkey in Logan County.
To close out this story quickly, Rob
did persevere and come back, Bill and I did join the chamber, and
the legend of my being a "firm keister" grew in the business
Over the years I would see Rob on
occasion. Always a polite young man, he would drop a few proverbs my
way, and I would gruff something back at him.
I followed Rob's
business efforts as we all did in the paper. Not always certain he
wasn't just crazy, I continued to admire the fact that he was trying
hard to rejuvenate downtown structures and businesses. We never
developed a friendship, but I always thought highly of his hard work
ethic and the way he carried himself
Six weeks ago I read that Rob was hired
on an interim basis to fill the EDC job, and my economically
deprived spirits picked up. Here was someone who actually knew what
it was like to be in business accepting a job to promote and help
This week I spent over an hour with
Rob, and now my spirits are more positive than they have been in
years that the right person at the right time is our economic
development director. The only thing that could further boost my
morale is if the word "interim" is removed from his job description.
[to top of second column
in this letter]
I could tell you specifics of the
things Rob and I talked about during that hour, but besides running
out of column space, I would prefer he communicate directly with
you. I sincerely hope he will use the available media to share with
you the ideas and ideals that he shared with me this past week.
I want you to see that he knows what
it's like to build business dreams in Lincoln and Logan County. Rob
knows what it's like to have a great day at the cash register as
well as what it's like to stare out a storefront window and ask the
Lord where the customers are that day. He has personally experienced
what it's like to restore old structures like the Depot and the
Avery and Comstock building. He has dealt with the encouragements
and the disappointments of being an entrepreneur as well as a
retailer. Most of all, he knows what it's like to work 60 or 70
hours a week, as he did at The Restaurant at the Depot, chasing a
dream of making a better life in a town where he has invested his
efforts and his money.
Rob understands the balance between
retail and manufacturing. He is aware that affordable housing is an
element of economic growth and that a community working together can
achieve great things. Rob also appreciates and understands the needs
of those of us who have already made the maximum commitment of
having a retail business or factory right here, right now.
I asked Rob to define his job, and his
simple two-word answer is better than anything I could have come up
with if I used up another 50 column inches. Rob defines his position
as "job broker." Those two words carry more power and hope for this
city and county than any others I could imagine.
(posted Feb. 25, 2004)
Related articles in
Lincoln Daily News
sponsor of the week
Monday it was announced by the board of
trustees at Illinois State University that Dr. Al Bowman will be
named president of the university.
I want to extend my congratulations to
Al and Linda Bowman on being selected for such a prestigious and
important position. Not only have they given over two decades of
service to Illinois State University, its students and faculty, they
have the institutional knowledge that will help forward the
university at this time.
In my 12 years in the Illinois General
Assembly, I have been pleased to have worked with four university
presidents, each of them fitting the unique role and providing a
unique form of leadership at the necessary time. I firmly believe
that there is no one better suited to fill the role of presidency at
Illinois State University than Dr. Al Bowman.
[to top of second column
in this letter]
At this time, he
possesses the skills necessary to enhance and motivate the faculty.
He has the determination to recruit top-quality students and
challenge them to meet their highest potential. He has the ability
to ask people who have benefited from Illinois State University to
invest in its future through contributions to its endowments.
We are struggling under very difficult
times financially, and it is critical that we have leadership like
Al Bowman and the rest of the administration and faculty on the
campus at Illinois State University.
I pledge my
full support in working with Dr. Bowman as he pursues academic
excellence and achievement for Illinois State University.
Sen. Bill Brady
(posted Feb. 24, 2004)