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Friday, May 23, 2014

KANKAKEE, IL – May 23, 2014 – Kankakee County is in position to strengthen its economy by building upon its current economic base, promoting education as an economic development tool and enhancing quality of life, according to its newly completed five-year Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS).

The U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration certified the county's CEDS in April, marking the first update to the local community and economic development plan in 26 years. The two-year initiative was led by the Economic Alliance of Kankakee County and involved significant input from elected officials, private-sector leaders and local residents.

Primary goals outlined in the CEDS include improving infrastructure, including shovel-ready sites; increasing investment in new employer recruitment and existing employer retention and expansion efforts; supporting entrepreneurship; promoting and enhancing local education and workforce development; and improving the overall local quality of life.

"The most valuable outcome of the CEDS process," explains Economic Alliance President/CEO Mike Van Mill, "is the validation that Kankakee County is indeed ripe for growth.

"The CEDS document is a detailed road map that identifies our community's existing areas of strength along with areas that require attention," continues Van Mill. "Through this process, it was also confirmed that we're competitively positioned to attract new business in some very specific industry sectors."

Those target industries, reflecting both the existing industrial makeup of the county as well as leading trends, are: Food Processing; Metal, Machinery and Advanced Manufacturing; Transportation, Distribution and Logistics; Health Care; and Business and Professional Services.

The CEDS document will inform the Economic Alliance's program of work through 2018, serving as a guide for establishing goals and objectives, developing and implementing a plan of action, and identifying capital investment priorities. It also establishes eligibility for the county to receive federal grant funding to support qualifying revitalization efforts.

Priority capital projects identified in the study include the Industrial Drive Extension in Bradley, Downtown Pedestrian Bridge in Bourbonnais, Ken Hayes Industrial Park in Bradley, the Brookmont Boulevard Underpass in Kankakee and the Manteno-Deselm Road reconstruction.

The CEDS was developed through an inclusive process involving a 16-member Strategy Committee, personal interviews with local leaders, focus groups, a public meeting and 30-day comment period.

"This process revealed that there is a high degree of agreement as to our community's core assets and primary needs," notes CEDS Strategy Committee Chair and Riverside Medical Center President/CEO Phil Kambic. "Our community is rallying around moves to lower unemployment, increase wages, increase graduation rates, attract new investment and enhance our physical environment.

"Working in collaboration and with this road map, I am confident that we will see these visions realized."