REVERSING THE EXODUS 2.0 IN SOUTHERN ILLINOIS
On August 29, 2023, Illinois Extension and the CREATE BRIDGES project presented Reversing the Exodus 2.0. During the day-long summit speakers discussed emerging trends and effective strategies that communities in southern Illinois can use to reverse the out migration of its young adults.
Extension Specialist, Pam Schallhorn presented an updated version of Reversing the Exodus that she had presented in southern Illinois in December 2021. Other speakers included Susan Odum, Extension Specialist and co-director of the CREATE BRIDGES project in southern Illinois. She provided updates on the project and future opportunities for the region available through a RISE grant. State Extension Specialist and Director of the Illinois Census Data Center, Zach Kennedy was on hand to bring the latest information on population change in southern Illinois.
A young adult panel session was included after lunch. Jennifer Olson from the city of Marion discussed how her city is utilizing its young adult advisory panel, called The Influencers, to assist with planning and future development. Finally, Trish Steckenrider, Ashlee Spiller and Carol Hoffman, tourism professionals from across the region were invited to discuss ways to spur in-migration of residents both old and young by effectively marketing southern Illinois’ abundant natural amenities and recreational opportunities.
CREATE BRIDGES serves a vital role for communities.
While manufacturing and professional services are often the focus of economic development efforts, businesses in the retail, accommodations, tourism, and entertainment sectors are important to the viability of communities and regions. These industries provide needed goods, services and amenities to residents and visitors and enhance quality of life. They are often a major source of jobs and tax revenue for communities.
The CREATE BRIDGES initiative was launched to develop and test a process to promote and strengthen retail, accommodations, tourism and entertainment sectors, particularly in rural, economically distressed areas.
- Raise awareness of the role these important businesses play in the region’s economy;
- Determine challenges and barriers negatively impacting those businesses; and
- Develop and implement strategies to strengthen the retail, accommodations, tourism, and entertainment sectors within a region.
The CREATE BRIDGES initiative is a partnership among the Southern Rural Development Center, University of Kentucky’s Community & Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky (CEDIK), University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service’s Community, Professional and Economic Development (UACES-CED), and Oklahoma State University Extension.
CREATE BRIDGES is built upon the Southern Rural Development Center led Stronger Economies Together (SET) initiative, a collaborative effort across 32 states that helped rural counties work together to develop and implement an economic development plan for their multi-county region.
CREATE BRIDGES ILLINOIS was formed to help rural communities explore economic opportunities by building capacity in the retail and hospitality industries. Susan Odum, Illinois Extension Specialist, Community Economic Development in Southern Illinois leads this exciting new initiative in Illinois. Members of the state-wide program team include: Zach Kennedy, Illinois Extension State Specialist, Community Economic Development; Nancy Ouedraogo, Illinois Extension Specialist, Community Economic Development; and Laura Payne, Illinois Extension Specialist, Recreation.
Over the two-year pilot program, the state-wide program team will assist one rural, economically distressed region:
- form a regional steering committee;
- conduct an inventory of CREATE businesses, existing training programs;
- host a CREATE BRIDGES forum
- implement a business retention and expansion program
- convene a CREATE academy
- develop and implement new strategies and actions to strengthen the CREATE businesses in the region.
Read the announcement for our pilot program.