During their two-day central Illinois tour, the commissioners were
introduced to numerous major business and community leaders
representing central Illinois.
The major sponsor of the "reverse
foreign trade mission," was the Illinois Department of Commerce and
Economic Opportunity's Office of Trade and Investment.
Goals of the reverse foreign trade mission:
with Chicago's foreign trade offices
in central Illinois business
exports from the region
Tourism was emphasized to the commissioners while they ate at
Hallie's. Hallie's features the schnitzel, the famous Route 66 Mill
Restaurant sandwich, and the restaurant is decorated with Route 66,
Mill and Lincoln memorabilia.
Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau of Logan County director Geoff
Ladd impressed upon the visitors his excitement that Logan County
has a lot to offer with its Abraham Lincoln heritage and Route 66
Route 66 was a road well-traveled in its heyday. As such it was
most commonly known as the "Mother Road." Illinois Route 66 Heritage
Project executive director Patty Ambrose gave a little history of
the popular road and its current resurgence.
Ambrose explained that before there was Interstate 55, a lot of
people used to travel Route 66. The road passed right through lots
of little towns. Businesses and restaurants thrived on serving the
travelers. Some of those businesses have disappeared over the years.
A particularly big loss in Logan County was the Pig Hip Restaurant
that burned last month.
But the road has established a balance, and new businesses are
being added now. Ambrose announced that a new winery would be
opening soon on the southern portion.
As a result of its staying power, one of the names Route 66 has
earned is "the road that never dies." It also has begun being called
"the old car road."
The road now is attracting 10,000 visitors a year, with 60
percent international travelers. It is a great way to get away from
the cars on I-55 and to experience Americana at its best, Ambrose
said. A trip down the road that runs from Chicago to Santa Monica,
Calif., offers wonderful views and great atmosphere. "You can't find
better people than you find on that road," she said.
Pig Hip owner Ernie Edwards, who has been meeting and greeting
travelers for decades, said that the most common comment he's heard
from foreign visitors is, "Oh, it's so big, it's so big!"
Acting as mayor pro-tem, Lincoln city councilman Verl Prather was
pleased to welcome the distinguished group. In a gift exchange,
Lincoln was given a plate with a mill on it from the Netherlands. It
was perfect with our Mill Restaurant under renovation and the
Hallie's displays, Prather said.
[to top of second column]
The tour launched from Chicago, with Lincoln being the first
stop. Lincoln & Logan County Development Partnership director Rob
Orr joined the group in Pontiac and presented the major local
From Lincoln the group went to Springfield to see the Capitol and
sit in on a legislative session, then to the Abraham Lincoln
Presidential Library and Museum, concluding their first day with a
reception at the governor's mansion.
Their Friday tour in Decatur included stops at a few of the
region's top manufacturing and research and development facilities:
Tate & Lyle, Caterpillar, and Archer Daniels Midland. A luncheon at
Richland Community College afforded small-business networking.
"Central Illinois has the essential resources, work force and
rich quality of life that are in demand across the globe," Gov. Rod
Blagojevich said in a news release before the tour. "Attracting new
investments, creating new jobs and connecting our communities to the
world are vital in our efforts to take advantage of all of central
Illinois' strategic assets. This reverse trade mission will allow us
to demonstrate its tremendous viability as an international business
partner and as a driving force in economic growth both here and
According to the news release from the Department of Commerce and
more than $42 billion in exports in 2006, a 17.3 percent increase
from 2005, the largest dollar figure increase in a single year,
according to WISER, the World Institute for Strategic Economic
Research, which compiles its information from the U.S. Census
Bureau, Foreign Trade Division. Since 2002, Illinois exports have
grown by $16.4 billion, a 64 percent increase. Illinois is also now
the fifth-largest exporting state in the country, which is its
highest ranking ever. Illinois also currently ranks fourth in the
nation in foreign direct investment, which is up 14 percent in the
last five years, according to the Organization for International
foreign trade mission is another example of Governor Blagojevich's
vision to fully capitalize on central Illinois' economic strengths,"
said Jack Lavin, DCEO director. "By bringing this international
delegation to the region, we are laying the foundation for a
stronger, more diverse economy that will take advantage of the many
international opportunities, which will help put more people to work
here at home."
The foreign trade commissioners represented Belgium, China,
Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Lithuania, Malaysia, the Netherlands,
Pakistan, the Philippines, Poland, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland,
Thailand and Ukraine.
Related news release
from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity: