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Macomb Welcomes Ideas on How to Better Serve WIU

TSPR's Emily Boyer

Western Illinois University President Jack Thomas said he wants to develop a list of businesses and services that students, faculty, and staff want in Macomb.

“There are a number of things I can name, but some things may not be feasible for a town this size," Thomas said. “The mayor has already talked to us about some of those things. But we want to partner and work together and then come up with some of the things we see feasible to bring to Macomb."

Thomas said the city and university will hold town hall meetings to hear from residents and the university's campus. He said recruiting and retaining students and staff is a joint effort because those decisions are based on what both Western and Macomb can offer.

“We need economic development and other amenities and businesses to remain competitive with other universities located in larger cities or metropolitan areas,” Thomas said.

Mayor Mike Inman said there might be challenges in meeting some of the requests considering that Macomb is not in an urban area, but rather is surrounded by corn fields in west central Illinois.

“We hope that when we are out encouraging students to come to Western we are not setting an expectation we can’t meet,” Inman said. “Unfortunately, if that is the case, we are setting those students up for a letdown and probably not a thorough academic career here.  So we want to be honest about what we have.”

Western's students have voiced their desire to have more chain restaurants in the area. In response, Inman said he sees this as an opportunity to promote exactly what Macomb does offer.

“We have very legitimate restaurants in place now, even though they don’t necessarily carry a franchise brand," Inman said.

"They do offer a great value to the students, and a fairly wide variety of opportunities to experience all types of food.”

Inman said he welcomes the feedback and looks forward to discussing what is possible in a rural city with a population of 21,509

“We would like to encourage everyone in the community whether they are students, short time visitors to our community, or longtime residents to remember first and foremost that we have people who have invested in our community already and we should be supporting them.  And then when opportunities arise as we can encourage other development. We can and will do that,” Inman said.

No dates have been scheduled yet for the town hall meetings.

Emily Boyer is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.