Small boat on stormy lake

In an August 2020 article, Johns Hopkins Medicine addressed coronavirus fatigue, or “burnout”, as a concern as the pandemic wears on.

The last nine months have been filled with ups and downs. Schools have transitioned from in-class learning to remote education; some schools are offering both to students and families.

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Morton Economic Development Council and Morton Chamber of Commerce identified “the advancement of its economic development efforts” and the “creation of a livable community for all” as key priorities, and subsequently engaged with University of Illinois Extension and UIUC Department of Urban and Regional Planning in an app

Streator Incubator Blog with business icons

Streator is a forward thinking city. Successful incubation programs operate like the businesses they help launch, whether they’re located in rural areas or more urban areas. When budgets are tight, best practice programs identify efficiencies to conserve scarce resources. But they also develop new programs and implement innovation ideas that can bring additional revenue.

Restaurant dinner table

Local eateries, restaurants, cafes, pubs, and coffee shops are the social and economic lifeblood of many Illinois communities.

Business owner wearing a mask with an open store sign

You have worked hard to stay in business and prepare to reopen during this pandemic. Now, you are challenged with the fact that many customers are nervous about returning to their favorite restaurants and retail stores.

Support for climate action, and renewable energy in particular, seem to be on the rise in Illinois and around the country. A recent survey of Illinois residents found that 82% support proposed legislation (HB3642) that will put the state on a path to 100% renewable energy by 2050 and create thousands of related jobs for Illinois residents. The poll, conducted by the Global Strategy Group and released by the Illinois Clean Energy Jobs Coalition, was conducted May 18-21, 2020.

Census 2020: All About the 2020 Census Podcast

Illinois Extension Community and Economic Development Specialists Zach Kennedy and Susan Odum were interviewed about the 2020 Census on WOC 1420 radio. They shared an overview of Census 2020 as well as discussing why participation is so important.

Listen to the interview here: All About the Census

Community leaders across Illinois are working hard to adapt to and overcome challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new survey conducted by University of Illinois Extension. Town, city, and county leaders across the state are concerned about the health of residents and economic impact on local businesses, employers, and local governments.

Photo of Michelle Sirles with farmer t-shirt

In the last few months, there is a good chance you might have seen someone wearing a t-shirt with the phrase “farmers are my kinda people.” This is one of the latest designs from Rendleman Orchards of Alto Pass. Their locally-grown-and-farm-themed t-shirts are popular, but their latest trademarked design has taken the country by storm. In just under 90 days, the shirt has been shipped to 49 states. 

Census 101 Graphic: How and why to respond

The 2020 Census

This blog post is the first in a series that will highlight the U.S. Census 2020. Participating in the U.S. Census is critically important for several reasons that will be addressed in this series. Key things to remember regarding the Census include:

The Scaling Up Restaurant Operations: Safety Considerations webinar held on June 2, 2020 is now available in archive format.

Restaurant staff in front of window.

Local eateries, restaurants, cafes, pubs, and coffee shops are the social and economic lifeblood of many Illinois communities. Following the stretch of statewide shutdowns that began in late March, residents may be eager to see their favorite food and drink establishments reopen and employees return to work.

As local restaurants prepare to reopen in Illinois, a taped webinar from Part 1 of Scaling Up Illinois Restaurant Operations: Financial Considerations held on May 28, 2020 is now available. Included on the broadcast is Gretchen Ernst from Gordon Food Service, providing broadliner perspective about supply and demand effects on restaurant food and kitchen supplies.

photo of restaurant

In every community throughout Illinois, restaurants represent a critical element of our social and economic well-being. We’re all eager to see restaurants reopen and employees back to work. In these two webinars, we’ll address management issues and plan for ways to make the reopen safe. This webinar series will be offered in two parts, Financial Considerations on May 28 and Opening Safely on June 4. 

Part 1 – Financial Considerations

Thursday, May 28, 2020 at 10 AM CST

photo of storeowner

The shopping experience has diminished as customers adhere to in-store social distancing guidelines, curbside pickup, scheduled delivery, and online ordering. While certain business activities are restricted, connecting with the customer is not.

retail photo

Business owners should take a close, hard look at the long-term prospects for profit. Does it make sense to continue, or should you limit losses, close the doors for now, and save your time and energy for a future business?

Retailing in the U.S. has been transitioning for the greater part of the last decade. Since the recession, retailers both small and large have had to adapt or dissolve. COVID-19 forced shutdowns of non-essential businesses, including most retailers. Unless your store had an online presence, your sales have probably dropped to near zero.

During the past several weeks, families and businesses around the country have endured tragic loss of human life, modified their way of life, and lost vital economic resources. Many of us stay at home “doing our part” not to risk exposure and illness that might further burden our hospitals, as others work to save lives and provide needed food and products.

Life has been doling out lemons to our small, locally owned businesses, so they are busy making lemonade. While social distancing, they are thinking outside the box, engaging through social media, transitioning to online shopping, and identifying new ways to interact with their customers. They are resilient!

Overwhelmed, inundated, backlogged. These are just a few of the words employees, employers, government officials, and community leaders are using to describe working through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unemployment claims nationwide are soaring. According to the Department of Labor, in the week ending March 28, 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits – doubling the previous week’s level of 3.3 million.

photo of downtown

Rural community and economic development professionals are working furiously to share the latest information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Using calculator at desk

Illinois has announced $14 million for the Hospitality Emergency Grant Program. Grant funds are available to support working capital, such as payroll and rent, as well as job training, retraining, and technology to support shifts in operations, such as increased pick-up and delivery.

What types of businesses are eligible?

resiliency framework

We’re adjusting to a “new normal.” We hear it daily on the news, in our virtual meetings and at the dinner table, but how can we make sure we stay connected

Updates from the SBA webinars

SBA is encouraging small businesses and nonprofits interested in the Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) to apply as soon as possible. The loans are first come, first served. Applicants can ask for an increase later if additional funds are needed. The webinar covered the following points:

Using calculator at desk

UPDATE:  The State of Illinois has received a federal disaster designation, allowing Illinois businesses affected by the coronavirus crisis to apply for low-interest loans from the US Small Business Administration.

Using calculator at desk

Many small business owners, especially those required to close, are wondering how to finance their businesses during these difficult times. This series, Financial First Aid, will provide accurate and credible information for small business owners attempting to navigate through hard times.

US Small Business Administration Disaster Assistance Loans

Main Street Vacancies on the Rise

A word list to cover all challenges that local economies face would be an interesting group exercise. I have recently focused on topics like building vacancies, business closures and recovery from disasters. Please see these and other articles on our Building Entrepreneurial Communities blog.

Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy Meeting

A Farm Bureau lawyer, a Sierra Club scientist, and a wastewater treatment plant operator walk into a conference room . . . It’s no joke. On December 3-4 in Springfield, these three and about 120 more people gathered to hear the latest on Illinois’ Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (NLRS). “We were happy to see such a great turnout. Since its adoption in 2015, we have focused on stakeholder partnerships to move the strategy forward.

Bouncing back from business closures

Working and living in small towns makes business closures personal for community leaders. Whether the reason is owner retirement, changing trends or international competition, closures stick with us. Communities suffer each loss in tax revenue, jobs, leadership and morale. To address the voids, University of Illinois Extension shares insightful counter strategies in various ways. Please see related articles archived at