Friday, June 15, 2012
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Partnership luncheon draws large crowd

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[June 15, 2012]  On Wednesday, the Lincoln & Logan County Development Partnership hosted their annual luncheon at American Legion Post 263 in Lincoln.

The yearly event is a major fundraiser for the partnership, but it also offers community leaders, businessmen and a wide variety of local economic organizations the opportunity to get together as friends and neighbors.

Wednesday's luncheon brought in a large crowd that included several county and city of Lincoln officials, as well as representatives from other communities, including Atlanta Mayor Fred Finchum and members of the Atlanta Betterment group. Also present were members of the Lincoln/Logan County Chamber of Commerce and the Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau of Logan County as well as representatives of a wide variety of area businesses.

On a state level, Sen. Larry Bomke's office was represented and Rep. Rich Brauer was in attendance. In addition to all these was keynote speaker U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, who stayed for the entire meeting and spent a good deal of time interacting with guests.

Mike Maniscalco, executive director of the development partnership, began the day with a welcome prior to lunch. He personally noted many of the special guests in the room.

Maniscalo made quick work of the opening and invited everyone to enjoy their meal.

When Maniscalco returned to the podium to introduce Schock, he drew chuckles from the audience as he drew comparisons between himself and the congressman. He quipped: "Congressmen Schock has been on the cover of magazines. I was in the Courier and the Daily News."

He also commented on Schock's youth, drawing attention to the fact that the two men are the same age: 31. He said it showed that youth was taking over.

When Schock took the podium, he responded by saying it wasn't that the youth were taking over; it was that they were all growing older.

Schock spoke several minutes about topics of great interest in Logan County. (The congressman's speech is covered in greater depth in a separate article in LDN's Thursday edition.)

After Schock's speech, Maniscalco returned again to the podium and asked Shock to assist him in presenting the development partnership's first Community Development Award.

This year the award was presented to the downtown steering committee for the city of Lincoln, along with Lisa Kramer and Darren Forgy of Prairie Engineers, who work with and for the committee.

The steering committee consists of Barbara Blackburn, David Lanterman, Bob Neal, Seth Goodman, Alderwoman Marty Neitzel, Patrick Doolin and Lincoln Mayor Keith Snyder.

The committee was formed to work on designing a downtown improvement plan after the city won a $675,000 grant for planning and implementation through a Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity program.

Kramer and Forgy have also been involved in this since the beginning, as it was Kramer who wrote the grant application and assisted the city in getting the award. Recently Prairie Engineers was officially hired as consultants for the project.

On hand to accept the award were Doolin, Goodman, Kramer, Forgy and Snyder.

At the end of the meeting, Maniscalco invited partnership president Steve Smith to the podium for the closing statements.

Smith first made a point of acknowledging all the members of the partnership board by asking them to stand. He commented on the dedication of the board members, who give hours of their time and talents to the board as volunteers.

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Smith also acknowledged the partnership's administrative assistant, Christel Huff. Huff came to the partnership as a part-time employee about a year ago. Her job soon evolved into several days a week and several hours. Smith said she is vital to the partnership in that she is very good at keeping himself and Maniscalco organized.

Speaking about the development partnership and its work, Smith said, "We have a little motto: The partnership consists of people who work together to enhance the economy and quality of life for all of Logan County. We've strived hard over the past year to not just concentrate on Lincoln or the county. We've brought in numerous communities to sit on the board and have been active in getting out to those communities."

Together, the county has achieved some major accomplishments, Smith said. One of the prouder moments for Smith and the development partnership is the approaching completion of the electricity aggregation process for many communities in the county as well as the unincorporated areas of the county.

Smith told the audience the bidding process had wrapped up on Tuesday. He said the participants made their electricity contract purchases at noon and landed what is actually the lowest electricity rate in the state of Illinois to date.

He said it had taken a lot of work; that he and Maniscalco had attended a lot of community meetings and worked to help educate citizens and bring this to all of Logan County. He told the audience this would equate to approximately $2,300,000 not leaving Logan County over the next two years.

He said on the average, every household would have about $216 more money in their pocket each year.

Smith said: "These are the kinds of things we need to go forward with and do in Logan County. It's not Atlanta, it's not Mount Pulaski, it's not the county; it's everyone who belongs to the partnership as an individual, a business, an organization, an elected official."

Smith said the partnership is always seeking new members and always in need of volunteers.

As Smith drew to a close, he acknowledged Schock and his chief of staff and others in his office who have supported Logan County and the development partnership. He noted that Schock's office is currently working to help the partnership get their CEDS application approved in Washington. He thanked them for all they have done for the local communities.

Smith then quickly ended his comments, thanking everyone in attendance and saying he hoped to see them all back for this annual event next year.


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