BLOOMINGTON – As a former public accountant, Tom Good admits that he often is more of a pessimist than an optimist.
“When I look at a glass, I see it as half-empty,” he said at the 17th annual McLean County Economic Seminar on Thursday morning. “But when you look at the facts and figures of the McLean County economy, I realize just how fortunate we are to live here.”
Good, executive vice president and commercial market president at Busey Bank, filled in for Busey Vice President Ed Scharlau, who did most of the research before falling at his home last week. About 200 people attended the event at Presser Hall, Hansen Student Center, at Illinois Wesleyan University.
There is more good than bad when it comes to the McLean County economy, Good said. The quality of education — including primary, secondary and higher education — the availability of good jobs, a low unemployment rate, and a strong agriculture economy should continue to benefit the county in the coming years, he said.
New home construction and strong retail sales also are a sign of strength. “I bet that 99 percent of the counties in the Midwest would love to trade places with us,” he said.
Kyle Ham, CEO of the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council, said the time has arrived for McLean County to push harder to create even more economic development opportunities.
“I sense that we feel we are good enough and our long run of good success has made us comfortable, but we can even get better if we take advantage of the opportunities before us,” he said.
“Economic development is not easy,“ he said. “It often takes years to go from a concept to completion of a project," he said. "But we are moving in the right direction and we should be look for solutions to grow our community and better our future.”
Both agreed that McLean County is growing. The Census Bureau reported the population increased by 2.6 percent in the past five years. According to the most recent figures, there are 174,061 people living in the county.
More people are employed than last year, when the jobless rate was nearly 1 percent higher at 4.8 percent. Other Central Illinois clock in at 4.1 percent in Champaign County, 5.7 percent in Peoria County and 5.9 percent in Macon County.
Good likes the attitude and confidence shown by the McLean County business community.
“I think, throughout this country, there is a mindset of people who feel hopeless that the economy is never going to get better,” he said. “This isn’t just poor people. I feel our national pastime has becoming owning this sense of doom. All of the negative economy news lead us down a path of negativity. I want to encourage us to remember our blessings, push forward and improve our workforce. We need to support small businesses and advocate for our schools. With this type of effort, we will find attainable, economic growth."