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LINCOLN - As the director of the Lincoln-Logan Development Partnership, Joel Smiley understands one of the keys to economic development is having solid infrastructure.

Last week, Smiley hosted a meeting at which Logan County officials could meet representatives from state agencies that pass out grants.

"I thought it went very well, but this is just the first step in a long process," Smiley said. "Our intent here was to create some dialogue between the representatives of the cities that may need some infrastructure improvement and the agencies that control that money.

"By bringing those people into Logan County and having them sit down with the people who will be requesting the money, they will have a better understanding of the needs here and that should benefit Logan County in the long run."

City leaders from all county communities, as well as several county department leaders and board members, attended the meeting. Each group discussed its infrastructure needs and then met individually with representatives from USDA, Illinois Finance Authority, Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunities.

"We want to help build communities and assist them in the grant process," said Kristi Conrad of the Illinois Finance Authority. "The less money a community has to spend on water or sewer projects, the more money it has for police and fire protection."

Smiley said every community needs improvement in infrastructure. For instance, some parts of the county still rely on clay pipes to carry water and sewer, and the pipes have been in the ground for 100 years.

"As a county, there are some things we can take away from this meeting and help each of the communities with," said Logan County Board Chairman Dick Logan. "We're all trying to improve on economic development together, so what is good for one of the communities, is also good for the county."

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