Brain drain in downstate Illinois

April 25, 2014

When Archer Daniels Midland told Decatur city officials that it would be moving its global headquarters to Chicago, city councilman Pat McDaniel said the news hurt, but that it wasn’t surprising. “Young people don’t want to locate in Decatur anymore, at least we’re starting to see more and more people want to move to places like Chicago.”

And according to IRS and US Census data, McDaniel might be right. People are moving, around Illinois and out of the state all together. For at least the last fifteen years, more people have moved out of Illinois than have moved in. In order to keep businesses and communities thriving, Michael Lucci of the Illinois Policy Institute says that trend has to stop. It’s costing the state lots of money in tax revenue. In addition, Lucci says it’s a specific demographic that appears to be moving out.

“It’s earners that are making above the average household income who have college degrees that are leaving,” he says, “with an aging tax base and business climate where attracting big corporations to locate in a particular space is highly competitive, something has to be done.”

City leaders like Pat McDaniel agree. The question is – how? 

Kathy Lively has some suggestions. After the shutdown of the Maytag plant that employed nearly 1,000 people in Herrin, Illinois, city residents rallied together to ensure those workers found new jobs and stayed in town.

During this Focus interview, Scott Cameron talks with Pat McDaniel about what it means to Decatur that ADM is moving its global headquarters and some of its employees. Then we’ll hear from Michael Lucci and Kathy Lively from Mantracon, a company that helped the city of Herrin take care of its laid-off workers when Maytag left in 2006.