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Economic Development Group Seeks to Create New Jobs in County

Article Source: The Daily Illini

The Champaign County Economic Development Corporation recently set its two-year goals, which include providing support to create 3,000 new jobs in Champaign County.

Over the next two years, the corporation aims to attract $225 million in new private investment to Champaign County, assist companies to grow payroll by $132 million and increase private sector influence in the corporation by doubling the number of its private investors.

“Ultimately, we want to increase the level of income in our communities, which will be a big economic boost to the local economy,” said Erik Kotewa, deputy director of the corporation. “In order to do that, we have to attract new jobs by either expanding current businesses that are here or attracting new businesses.”

Financial contributors give money to the Economic Development Corporation to help fund business retention programs aimed to ensure that Champaign County-based companies are satisfied, ease expansions and provide other services that help keep corporations in the area.

In the past 10 years, Champaign County has been in the bottom half of the Midwestern community peer group for job growth, according to the EDC’s two-year strategy. Creating 3,000 jobs would put Champaign County in the top third.

Lori Gold Patterson, CEO of Pixo, a technology firm in Urbana, doubled the size of her company in less than a year. She said she supports the EDC’s strategy, and her company will help the corporation reach its goals.

“The more jobs that are created locally, the stronger the economy is,” Gold Patterson said. “The more likelihood there is a growing talent pool here we can pull from.”

The EDC also aims to attract $225 million in new private investment to the county, such as expanding local companies or new companies investing in new facilities, which would create jobs.

In assisting companies with growing their payroll, the corporation seeks to ultimately increase per capita pay to $26,000 from $23,700, according to the two-year strategy.

“They’re aggressive (goals), but they’re realistic and provide something for the organization and the region to shoot for in terms of growing the economy,” said Bruce Knight, Champaign’s planning and development director.

Kotewa said in order to accomplish its two-year goals, the corporation strives to double the number of private investors who contribute to the EDC.

“These goals are bigger than what we can accomplish with our current level of resources and with the current level of involvement in our organization from local stakeholders,” Kotewa said.

Gold Patterson said she supports this initiative and thinks the corporation needs to focus more on the private sector business model. She said other companies should support the organization once they see the value of it.

The corporation provides industry roundtables for Champaign County-based corporations to discuss collaborative opportunities. On Nov. 21, the EDC will host its annual meeting highlighting products made in Champaign County.

Gold Patterson said Pixo has seen solid outcomes from these services and thinks they enable businesses to better meet the needs of the workforce. She said the corporation’s annual meeting has tremendously helped her staff.

“Pixo is a technology firm, and the staff at our company historically did not have the opportunity to be inspired by other innovations and technology in the county,” Gold Patterson said. “It really helps when you’re in a creative field or a technology field to feel the energy and the growth and the idea creation around you.”

Kotewa said achieving the two-year goals may be a challenge, but he is confident they are realistic numbers based on information regarding what other economic organizations across the country are doing.

“The thing to keep in mind is that this reflects a county-wide effort,” Knight said, “so everybody is pulled up by attempting to achieve these goals.”