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Report: Decatur Second-Fastest Shrinking Economy Nationwide

Updated: Friday, February 7 2014, 09:54 AM CST
It's a top rank on a list no community wants to be on.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors' report says Decatur is the second-fastest shrinking economy in the nation, with a nearly 13 percent unemployment rate and not much promise for 2014.

Decatur Economic Development Officer Patrick Hoban is frustrated with the ranking.

"They kind of took an overall snapshot of everybody in the nation and they didn't ask us about Mueller's outlook, about the good news they received today about exceeding last year's expectations," Hoban said.

Hoban says the report doesn't look at the long-term. He says it doesn't consider what Decatur's options for higher education could provide for the community, and it doesn't take into account Decatur's high amount of skilled workers and low cost of living. He says it also doesn't take into account the city's plans to build lakefront property and the Midwest Inland Port, a major transportation hub.

"There's a lot of site selectors and developers that are interested in that right now, because we are the only one in the nation that has three class one rail providers in one yard," Hoban said.

The report may have left out some of Decatur's bright spots, because the group crunched numbers from November 2012 to November 2013. That is a time when mass layoffs were announced at major employers like Caterpillar and agricultural giant Archer Daniels Midland announced it's moving its global headquarters to Chicago, taking dozens of more jobs with it.

"When you can't find a job, you can't support your family. You leave the area," Republican State Rep. Bill Mitchell said.

Mitchell says lawmakers should pay attention to the report and to what's been happening in communities like Decatur. He says Illinois should stop what he calls the "one-size-fits all" approach to economic policy.

"So we've got to highlight, pinpoint, when you've got these pockets of unemployment. So you'd say those areas that have been historically blue collar and manufacturing-- how can we entice manufacturers to come back to the area? And that you would have to look, and common sense [would say] you would have to look at your tax incentives, you'd have to look at your property tax incentives," Mitchell said.

The report ranks Shreveport-Bossier, Louisiana, as the number one fastest-shrinking economy in the nation. Midland, Texas, is ranked as the number one fastest-growing economy in the nation. Report: Decatur Second-Fastest Shrinking Economy Nationwide

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