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Editorial: United front is only way to drive economic development

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The people of Central Illinois know the benefits of living in this area: hard-working people, a strong mix of agriculture and industry, good transportation, a range of educational opportunities, religious and ethnic diversity, strong community involvement.

That's what Central Illinois needs to market to the rest of the state and the nation. It will encourage business and residential growth in McLean County and, thus, fuel the economy of Central Illinois as a whole.

But it must be a partnership if it's going to work. 

That was the point of a marketing study undertaken by Ioanna Morfessis of IO.Inc. of Phoenix, Ariz. Morfessis, who has a background working with governments and businesses, produced a study that looked at McLean County's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Her work, which included the Economic Development Council of the Bloomington-Normal Area, was gleaned from interviews with government, economic and community leaders and the region's major business, education and civic stakeholders.

Morfessis, who called the quality of life here "superb," unveiled her findings Monday night during a joint work session of the Bloomington and Normal city councils and the McLean County Board.

The long and short of it is this: While we excel in many, many areas, we only will succeed in the future if we work together.

Such unity is sometimes hard to come by, despite — and because of — dual communities, universities, hospitals and school districts joined at the hip.

Just as magnets can pull things together, they also can push them apart.

Morfessis' study is expected to come into sharper focus in the months ahead — she expects to present specific recommendations at a community meeting in August.

That short lull is the time for community leaders to set aside petty grievances or longstanding us-and-them practices. There must be a consensus to step forward as a group to support ideas or processes that are in the best interest of the county as a whole.

That was done years ago with Diamond-Star Motors, now Mitsubishi Motors North America.  Advocate BroMenn and several other entities are doing it today with a new integrated wellness center.  

There is no reason the cities, county, chamber and other organizations can't do it to help ensure future growth and development.

Economic development works best when all the wheels turn in the same direction. A wobbly shopping cart can still go down the aisle with only three good wheels, but the trip to the checkout lane is a lot smoother when all four wheels work together.

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