Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

October 5, 2012

Foundation has new focus

Bill Grimes
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM —     Nearly 70 years ago, a group of Effingham residents founded the Effingham County Civic Foundation.

    In the years since 1943, the foundation has been involved in a number of community projects. They bought the land on which Helen Matthes Library now sits, helped build St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital and helped facilitate construction of the Fayette Avenue underpass, to name a few.

    But times have changed and foundation members have changed their focus from civic improvement projects to economic development efforts.

    “In all the surveys we have seen for many years, the number one issue is economic development,” said foundation director Paul Koerner. “We wanted to create an organization that supports those efforts.”

    Because of that focus, the foundation’s name has been changed to Effingham County Economic Development Foundation.

    Koerner spoke at Thursday’s meeting of the Legislative Committee of the Whole of the Effingham County Board. He was joined by economic development consultant Hank Stephens, banker Chuck Deters and Agracel executive Dean Bingham.

    Koerner said the group has reviewed economic development efforts in more than a dozen communities. Success, he told the committee, depends on the level of cooperation between the public and private sectors.

    “This will only work if we join with public bodies to collaborate,” he said. “We need to collaborate because we will be stronger if we work together.”

    Koerner said the foundation would like to have a $300,000 annual budget by 2017. He hopes the County Board and other governmental entities will contribute to the foundation’s nest egg.

    But more than that, he said, the group wants moral support from the board and other entities.

    “What we want is a stamp of approval,” Koerner said. “We want to a feeling from the County Board that you like what we’re doing.”

    Several board members agreed that a public-private partnership is the way to go.

    “I would like to see our boards work together,” said board member Jim Niemann.

    “We need to work together for everyone to prosper,” said board chairwoman Carolyn Willenburg.

    Willenburg was non-committal Thursday about the chances of county financial support for the fiscal year that begins Dec. 1.

    “It won’t be on this month’s agenda,” she said. “I would like to give the board time to review it.”

    In action taken Thursday, the committee recommended a hike in the fee charged for work-release inmates at Effingham County Jail from $17 to $25 per week. Sheriff John Monnet said the fee had not been increased for more than 10 years.

    The committee also recommended that former board member Charles Voelker be appointed to the county Board of Health.

    Both times will be on the agenda for the full board meeting Oct. 15.