Friday, September 18, 2009
sponsored by Graue Inc.

Lincoln holds 1st Economic Development Summit

Part 4: What makes Lincoln and Logan County unique?

(Part 1: Vision set for participants)

(Part 2: A door opens for change in Lincoln and Logan County)

(Part 3: What are our strengths?)

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[September 18, 2009]  During last Saturday's city of Lincoln Economic Development Summit, participants generated a massive list of strengths. Facilitator John Cox then asked the group to look at the lists on the whole and tell him what Lincoln and Logan County had to offer that was unique, something other areas might not be able to offer.

The answers quickly turned to the historical aspects of the community, its hublike location in central Illinois, the LDC campus, an Amtrak stop and finally the wind resources.

Smiley commented on the wind resources, saying that having the wind development and the availability of the transmission lines offers a tremendous growth potential.

Cox asked if the companies that had the turbines were paying taxes to Logan County and employing Logan County residents.

Smiley said they were generating revenue for the city and county and that for every 100 megawatt wind farm, there is an opportunity for eight to 16 full-time jobs in maintenance.

Hake said the wind farms had brought with them other benefits, such as the building up of the road structures in the vicinity of the farms; they donated training and supplies to the community's fire departments, pertaining particularly to high rescue; and the companies also donated to festivals in the communities they are near.

Cox asked if the managers of the farms or the facility leaders were engaged in the life of the community, if anyone in the room worked for them, or if any of them engaged in other civic boards.

Hake said: "No, they are not as engaged as we would like for them to be. They are based out of Bloomington, and they are involved somewhat in the Hartsburg and Emden communities."

Ladd added that the wind farms are of a great benefit to the small school districts. He noted that the Rail Splitter Wind Farm is currently contributing to the Hartsburg-Emden school district, and the proposed Sugar Creek Farm, if it would be built, would benefit the New Holland-Middletown district.

A voice in the back of the room asked for the group to express their opinion on the visual impact of the turbines.

Hake said that everything that she has heard is that they are spectacular. "I've seen them, I think they are wonderful," she said, and added that early on there were concerns about the noise, but she feels that they are drawing attention to our community in a very positive way.

Cox said that when traveling by train in Europe, the wind farms always caught the attention of travelers and there was a feeling that they were something one had to take a picture of, almost like a tourist attraction.

It was also mentioned that there was a movement toward the privatization of wind energy and that there are already some very small-scale personal turbines going up in the county.

Doolin said that his brother lives among the turbines and has said that they are not nearly as bad as he had expected them to be.

He went on to say that yes, they do a lot of good, but there is a concern that the county may become littered with them and that Lincoln doesn't want to become known as a windmill city.

Cox agreed, saying that this could work into an area where it was an opportunity but also a threat to the economic growth of the community.

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Carlton added to that, saying that he didn't want the county to be shortsighted, looking only at the windmills and their pockets of revenue, without considering what may be coming down the road in 10 or 15 years, and how these farms could possibly hinder agricultural development and subsequently cost not only the county but the smaller communities such as Emden and Hartsburg.

Ferry asked if any studies had been done regarding wind velocity on the LDC campus. He noted that with 100 acres on the campus, there could be a potential for the city to establish some turbines for their own electric consumption.

Smiley said there is a Web site called Wind for Illinois that details wind velocities in the area and that the information may be available there. He said he could also contact Steve Smith with Farnsworth Group and perhaps get him down to look at it as well.

With that, Cox brought the discussion of the wind farms to a close, saying that there had been some excellent interaction on the topic and that it was going to lead him right into the next segment: opportunities.


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