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As times get hard, what will we do?

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[January 26, 2009]  In the last few weeks our collective thinking has taken some hard hits. First Goody's and then Papa John's gave the news of their closings. Then came word from Eaton that 60 jobs would be lost, a telling blow.

The question now in our thinking: "How, together, can we not only survive, but prosper in the end?"

None of those sad news stories were our fault. In the case of Papa John's, a corporate decision closed the location. The entire chain of Goody's simply is being liquidated, amidst several reports that the Lincoln store didn't do that badly. Eaton's cutbacks should have been expected. A factory that supplies components to a disastrously slumping building industry had to eventually join the slide in the supplier-related labor force. Building across the country will resume as the economic climate stabilizes.

We have made some solid inroads this past year. A wind farm gave a huge injection of cash in just building permits, in addition to further economic benefits in ensuing years. The word of a basement waterproofing company locating here with several dozen good jobs would be a real win. Several new businesses also have opened in our town, and we should thank them for their faith in us, not only as consumers, but also as a great labor force.

In the last few years our city and county officials again and again have worked through some complicated business development scenarios that have shown they are willing to do what it takes to make this a great place for businesses to locate. We should thank them also.

We also have two agencies supporting business retention, expansion and attraction. The Lincoln/Logan County Chamber of Commerce and the Lincoln & Logan County Development Partnership work together with our government leaders. There have been numerous successes in recent history and a lot of potential for near future developments. Each agency has bright, energetic directors. Both groups have positioned us well. We should thank the volunteers on those boards.


We have the necessary economic development tools in place that are now required to qualify for state and federal resources. A few years ago the Logan County Regional Planning Commission gave us a new Comprehensive Plan, which is a guide to steer growth. The Lincoln and Logan County Development Partnership led the second part of that process, the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy. The recent move to join a regional effort by having our CEDS piggybacked to the Peoria region has strengthened our position in seeking state and federal funds for development.

We are certain that as the year progresses we will hear of other new and positive enterprises coming to our county. They will be needed. Not just to create new jobs for our youth, but also to help keep good workers, good neighbors and good friends from having to pack up and leave us to find work elsewhere that would support their families. Yes, we might in effect be treading the economic waters for a while, but in a time when communities across the country are sinking, these new enterprises will keep us viable and strong and ready to stand in the forefront of new growth when the economy recovers.

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You can be sure that in these next few years there will be more trying and worrisome news in our local economy. We have learned, if we didn't know already, that we are not immune to the problems facing our country right now. We also should have learned that this community can do extraordinary things when we join together. And, join together again to help our economy is exactly what we must do.

In a day and age when we will be cutting back on how many times we dine out, we should make sure we dine out locally.

In a time when every durable goods purchase must be made judiciously and deemed as necessary, we should make sure we do all we can to make those purchases within our county.

We live in an age when Internet sales rule in growth over brick-and-mortar stores. We must ask ourselves if purchasing something over the Web from a company half a country away is in our best interest, when what will help us in the long run more would be going to a local merchant and paying a few cents more in sales tax that would return dollars to our local governments.

We also need to remember as we work that in these times we owe our best effort to our employers. It is this effort, this pride in how we work that created the world's greatest economy. This American work ethic is something we need to not only remember, but to embody and to emulate as we go to a job that is still there when millions of Americans across the country can no longer do the same.

We need to gather ourselves together, perhaps as never before, to help each other survive these times. We need to keep this question in our minds as we spend our dollars cautiously in these days to come: "Whose job in Logan County might I be able to help save?" That thinking is important because others in our community might be thinking right now of how they can help save yours.

We are in this together, now more than ever. And it is together that we will come out of this better and stronger than ever before.


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