Collinsville, IL., May 15, 2010 ... Over a hundred area leaders from across the region recently gathered for the fourth forum in the MidAmerica Multimodal Workshop series presented by MidAmerica St. Louis Airport and the Tri-City Regional Port District. The half-day, workshop-style forum themed "Moving the Region Forward," highlighted the role of freight and transportation infrastructure in advancing Southwestern Illinois. Announced during the workshop was the formation of the Southwestern Illinois Transportation Enhancement (SITE) group, which will utilize insight gained from each forum to pinpoint what is holding the region back and determine more specifically how to help drive it forward.
During the keynote address, Warren Ribley, the director of the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity, focused on how many of the state's key priorities aligned well with the core strengths that exist in Southwestern Illinois - manufacturing/advanced manufacturing, healthcare, agriculture, energy and transportation/infrastructure. He spoke to specific investments being made by the state, including broadband expansion to ensure even those in rural parts of the state have reliable Internet access, the Smart Grid which is enabling individuals and businesses to better manage their electricity use, and green economy initiatives, such as those that benefited Abengoa Bioenergy and Center Ethanol, Co. in Southwestern Illinois. Ribley also noted the state of Illinois'' positioning as the 6th largest export state in the United States, which is attributable not just to our extensive highway system and rail networks, but also to the 1,000 miles of navigable inland waterways. He commented on the role of the Tri-City Regional Port District and his support of the South Harbor project.
"Tri-City Regional Port District is a jewel in the region and the state, and I'm excited about the recent funding received for the new South Harbor project and its potential for increasing commerce in our region," stated Ribley. "Governor Quinn and I are committed to helping to find the needed dollars to close the funding gap so that the project can move forward."
Those in attendance also heard about the Chicago Region Environmental & Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) Program, a public-private partnership that successfully transformed an idea to improve rail service and infrastructure into a working coalition that secured a half-billion dollars in funding. The presentation, given by Joe Clary, former director of Public and Intermodal Transportation for IDOT, highlighted some of the things that have contributed to the success of CREATE to date, and shared a wealth of information about their approach that may be applied to Southwestern Illinois.
Mike Kearney, manager of economic development for Ameren, delivered a presentation about Ameren's Competitive Marketing Analysis aimed at determining the region's locational advantages which contribute to the area's solid positioning as a distribution hub. That positioning is underscored by the fact that Southwestern Illinois is within an 8-hour drive of 78 million people and the state of Illinois now ranks 10th in the nation for the volume of goods distributed outbound, and the 12th highest in volume of goods coming into the state. Future work on this initiative includes exploring how the area's unique advantages in this arena can be leveraged at the community level to create new jobs and sustainable economic growth.
Patrick McKeehan, executive director of Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois, also provided an update on the Southwestern Illinois Vision 2020 initiative, noting that heavy and light manufacturing, energy production, allied healthcare, value-added agriculture and transportation have been identified as key cluster areas with the potential to drive future growth in our region. He added that the next steps in the Vision 2020 process would revolve around the creation of a regional capital investment agenda and a marketing/branding initiative, along with renewed efforts in workforce development and network building.
"Through the four forums in the MidAmerica MultiModal series, the true value of freight transportation, and the impact it can have in terms of jobs and investment in our region, has become increasingly apparent," noted Dennis Wilmsmeyer, general manager of the Tri-City Regional Port District, who made the closing remarks. "The region's assets are numerous and we are strategically positioned to take advantage of those assets. It is now time to look at the bi-state nature of St. Louis Metropolitan region as an opportunity instead of the challenge it has been viewed as for the last 25 years."
He concluded by announcing the formation of the Southwestern Illinois Transportation Enhancement (SITE) group, which includes many of the key individuals who contributed to the success of the MultiModal series and are committed to building on what's been learned so far to continue to drive the region forward. SITE will be looking at everything from funding and marketing, to building business and utilizing the area's workforce to capitalize on freight.
To view copies of all the presentations from the four MultiModal forums in the series, visit www.flymidamerica.com. To learn more about the series, contact Dennis Wilmsmeyer at the Tri-City Port District at 618-877-8444.
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