Building a Resilient Economy in the Lower Illinois River Valley – Considerations for Farm Profitability, the Workforce, and Rural Recovery

In recognition of the need to better understand the challenges facing rural communities, John Wood Community College (JWCC) secured a grant from the Illinois Green Economy Network (IGEN) and commissioned THG Advisors (THG) to develop a report entitled, “Building a Resilient Economy in the Lower Illinois River Valley – Considerations for Farm Profitability, the Workforce, and Rural Recovery,” examining opportunities for creating positive regional impact. A key part in the overall development of the report involved interviews with a broad range of regional stakeholders to gain a practitioner’s perspective on conditions, issues, and concerns. A pre-recorded webinar is being offered in conjunction with the release of this report for on-demand viewing.

The webinar presentation focuses on:

  • an overview of challenges and opportunities facing today’s agricultural producers
  • producer’s contribution to the regional economy
  • local and external influencing factors affecting rural areas
  • workforce opportunities and readiness
  • the report’s findings, conclusions, and recommendations regarding strategies to support increasing the rural workforce and career possibilities

Following an overview of the report, the webinar shifts to a moderated discussion among a panel of seasoned practitioners from various disciplines regarding their own observations regarding barriers and opportunities. The webinar audience will learn about the report’s treatment and accounting of innovative practices and provide potential policies and practices that could be pursued to inform the creation of new workforce career pathways and considerations to gain insights on developing a road map to improve economic opportunity for the people of the region.

The report and accompanying webinar are intended to:

  • assist educators, agricultural producers and advisors, community leaders, local and regional community development organizations, and rural policymakers
  • provide information to those preparing, placing, and retaining the next generation of rural professionals
  • examine existing conditions and recovery opportunities of the nine-county corridor along the lower 80 miles of the Illinois River, including the rural core of the JWCC service area

JWCC President Michael Elbe said, “the report’s findings provide valuable information and insights to enhance our rural agricultural economy.  Community Colleges provide the capacity to develop and build viable partnerships as we create together new generations of farm operators, owners and other rural careers in our service area.”   

Patrick McGinnis, Executive Director of the Lower Illinois River-Rural Prosperity Initiative and advisor to the reporting team, stressed that “rural communities, particularly those largely dependent on agriculture, face numerous challenges from the impacts of climate, lack of workforce, trade and economic policy. The development of collaborative networks led or assisted by capacity-building institutions like community colleges contribute to applied approaches to activate economic and livability strategies for rural communities and regions. This rapid assessment project on behalf of JWCC and IGEN could lay the groundwork for a timely response to evolving regional workforce challenges and rural quality of life opportunities.”

For more information, please contact David Hetzler at 217-641-4956, email





Q: I don’t have time to read the whole report.  Can I focus on one section?

A: Let us recommend two sections.  First, the Executive Summary for context, but more importantly the Recommendations within Section V, which features five action areas that mirror the focus of the 2017 White House Interagency Task Force on Agricultural and Rural Prosperity.  The five action areas were: achieving e-connectivity for rural America, improving rural quality of life, supporting the rural workforce, harnessing technological innovation, and developing the rural economy.  The Recommendations section includes a call to action for each of these focus areas and provides several “activation project ideas” that are regionally specific but transferable.

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