I’m a pessimist, and I've been feeling gloomy about the future of our region with the bad news from Western Illinois University. There are fewer students, more jobs lost and the sudden, unexplained defunding of this NPR affiliate, Tri States Public Radio. Faculty, staff and community members feel left out of the decision-making process. There is a rolling negative effect outside of the university campus on Macomb and the region and the people living here.
But I’ve been hanging around some optimists. They have made me look beyond WIU to find the good things happening in our community.
McDonough District Hospital is building a new unit focusing on women’s health. New, young doctors have established themselves in the area. The City of Macomb sponsored a competition recently where 16 people had small business ideas, eight participated in the competition, two will be operating soon with four more still working on business plans. Three additional businesses built brand new buildings; several more are upgrading buildings and expanding their operations. Manufacturing has over 300 new jobs available. And the local paper advertises jobs in every issue.
In social services, there is a very active Habitat for Humanity Chapter. Local private and service groups provide food pantries, free meals for kids, scholarships for children’s camps and other kinds of help too numerous to list. The Western Illinois Regional Council provides all kinds of help for individuals and municipal grant writing to improve the community. The YMCA provides, among other services, specialized senior programs, including help with taxes and insurance. Macomb has a free public bus service with an on-demand feature for out-of-town medical trips.
We have entertainment. The towns and park districts in the region regularly sponsor festivals, free concerts, movies, classes and recreational activities. The Learning is ForEver (LIFE) program provides a huge variety of classes every year. The Convention and Visitors Bureau has a monthly listing of Arts Events – there were fourteen listed for August and another fourteen for September. The Macomb Public Library offers public computers and kids’ programs along with traditional library services. The Arts Center has monthly art exhibits and sales, music and theater events. The Western Illinois Museum has historical displays and events.
I’ve mentioned only a small portion of the organizations and people that operate on a regular basis in our community. I recognize that these things don’t make up for the losses related to WIU and that many other colleges and universities are experiencing the same problems. But a focus on positive events helps balance my feeling that our entire community is in a permanent state of decline because of the university’s difficulties. And I thank my optimist friends for the balance.
Gayle Carper is a member of the Macomb City council and she’s a retired attorney and retired Professor of Law at Western Illinois University.
The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the University or Tri States Public Radio.
Diverse viewpoints are welcome and encouraged.