December 9, 2020


As we head into the final stretch of what has undoubtedly been a year like no other, it's encouraging to see that, in the midst of all the challenges, there is still much to be thankful for here in SWIL. This final edition of Good NewsLink for 2020 includes a roundup of the positive news that helps to underscore how resilient our region is and should give us hope for 2021.

In addition to the $50 million in funding recently released by the State of Illinois for the second round of matching grants through Connect Illinois, the state’s $420 million statewide broadband expansion plan, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity also announced they are awarding $500,000 through existing and new state programs as part of a “Digital Equity Package.” This package gives modest grants to community-based and regional actors to address gaps in household access to computing devices, hotspot connectivity and digital literacy skills. Through the small grant the Leadership Council received, we were able to identify gaps in broadband coverage and problems with connectivity that local internet service providers weren’t addressing in Fairmont City and found funding opportunities to address them in the short term working with in partnership with PCs for People, while continuing to work on longer term solutions.

As part of those ongoing efforts, The Leadership Council Education Committee is encouraging members and other stakeholders to participate in a survey that will help our strategic regional planning for the SWIL Illinois Connected Communities cohort to build further awareness of connectivity challenges, advocate for enhanced connectivity with state and federal legislators and related companies, identify regional broadband and internet connectivity key priorities and more. You can take the survey here.  

The Leadership Council's ongoing partnership with local experts to present on various business-related topics during the Expert Wednesday Series continues to deliver great content. The most recent on November 18th focused on Exporting in the Midst of COVID, featuring presenters from World Trade Center, St. Louis & Illinois SBDC International Trade Center. You'll find the upcoming schedule below!
We continue to accept content contributions for the Multi-Modal Virtual Library being developed by the Southern Illinois Development Foundation thanks to a grant from Union Pacific Railroad for our Workforce 2030 program in STEM career fields. This free resource library for teachers, parents/guardians and students aligns with the Building Workforce 2020 program to build awareness of career technical education careers. 

The Leadership Council Military Affairs Committee is participating in US Army’s Operation Warp Speed to encourage people who have had COVID-19 in the past 3 months to donate their Convulsant COVID Plasma (CCP) to critically ill patients through donations to local blood banks – American Red Cross and Mississippi Valley Blood Center. These very ill patients need CCP to help them survive the COVID-19 virus. Area hospitals also need whole blood from healthy citizens to help patient populations throughout the St. Louis Metro area, so please consider donating today! For questions about donation, visit or 877-PLASMA9.

Below you'll find several other articles highlighting significant investments in various sectors in Southwestern Illinois, businesses that are expanding in our region and more. Happy reading and have a great rest of the week!

Dr. Ronda Sauget
Ronda Sauget, D. Mgmt, MBA
Executive Director and CEO
Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois
104 Magnolia Drive, Ste B
Glen Carbon, IL 62034
Rebuild Illinois awards $15.2 million to Madison County Transit
(Advantage News, 11/15/2020)
To provide safe, reliable public transportation to residents across the Metro East, state Sen. Rachelle Crowe (D-Glen Carbon) announced a $15.2 million state grant for Madison County Transit to construct a new administrative building and make other helpful upgrades for riders. (Read More)

Illinois pushes for digital equity with new broadband investments
(Capitol News Illinois, 11/18/2020)
SPRINGFIELD — The governor’s office and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity are awarding $500,000 through existing and new state programs as part of a “Digital Equity Package.” (Read More)

Airport terminal expansion moves ahead with $6.5 million grant
(Illinois Business Journal, November 2020 Issue, Page 4)
MidAmerica St. Louis Airport is moving forward on a key phase of its planned terminal expansion thanks to nearly $6.5 million in grant funding recently awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation. (Read More)

Grant aids start of dislocated worker training
(Illinois Business Journal, November 2020 Issue, Page 1)
A $1.47 million grant will be used to support dislocated worker education and training in the Metro East, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and one of the biggest challenges may be in finding the participants. (Read More)

Illinois’ Madison County continues long trending swing toward GOP
(Southern Illinois Labor Tribune, November 11, 2020)
Edwardsville, IL – Unofficial results from the Nov. 3 election in Madison County were disappointing to Labor’s friends in the Democratic Party, confirming a long trending swing toward a Republican majority.
St. Clair County remained a Democratic bastion, but otherwise it was a tough Election Day for Metro-East Democrats: (Read More)

New Route 111 interchange will be first of its kind in Metro East
(Edwardsville Intelligencer, 11/05/2020)
MADISON COUNTY — Now that the Illinois Department of Transportation has made it clearer what is next on its project list for Interstate 270 between Riverview Boulevard in St. Louis and Route 157, Route 111 is first. Construction should start in 2021. (Read More)

Madison County Transit to embark on beautification project
(Advantage News, 11/03/2020)
In an effort to enhance the natural beauty of the already scenic Madison County Transit (MCT) Trails, MCT is commencing a multiphase beautification project at several locations along the trails. (Read More)

Q&A: This broker is eyeing several Metro East CRE opportunities in 2021 despite Covid struggles
(St. Louis Business Journal, 11/11/2020)
The Metro East has seen a steady boom in development over the past 20 years. But like elsewhere in the St. Louis area, Covid-19 has threatened to derail the growth the Southern Illinois region has experienced. (Read More)

Kaskaskia Regional Port District recognized in TV presentation, ‘World’s Greatest’
(Illinois Business Journal, 11/21/2020)
The Kaskaskia Regional Port District appeared on a recent episode of “World’s Greatest TV Show,” which aired locally on both cable and satellite television in November. (Read More)

375th Air Mobility Wing at Scott Air Force Base earns effective readiness rating
(Belleville News-Democrat, 12/01/2020)
The 375th Air Mobility Wing at Scott Air Force Base recently completed a Unit Effectiveness Inspection Nov. 16-23, in which Air Mobility Command Inspectors General evaluate the compliance and readiness of an organization. (Read More)
Expert Wednesday Series

The Leadership Council started an Expert
Wednesday series for businesses to hear from experts on business related topics. We invite you to join and participate on the calls!
Upcoming Topics:

  • 1/20/2020 - The Office in the Post COVID World, Egyptian Workspace Partners
  • Link will be sent soon.

Featured Expert Wednesday Session:
Called to Serve How You as a leader Can Serve the Community and Transform Your Workforce through Philanthropy, by Archford Capital
Family’s former farm being converted to villas in Troy
(Illinois Business Journal, November 2020 Issue, Page 3)
An old family farm in Troy is being converted to senior living villas and now has its first resident. The project known as Serenade was the subject of open houses in October. (Read More)

Grant to SIUE will fund state bridge-improvement research
(Illinois Business Journal, 11/05/2020)
Research shows that 60 percent of bridge failures in the United States are related to scour — the erosion of soil around the base of a bridge pier from the flow of water. (Read More)

City to add learning facilities at its Watershed Nature Center
(Illinois Business Journal, November 2020 Issue, Page 3)
In early November, the city of Edwarsville and the Nature Preserve Foundation, the organization that manages the Watershed Nature Center, will begin construction on the biggest park improvement project in the center’s history. (Read More)

Multiple highway projects planned for 2021 in Metro East
(Illinois Business Journal, November 2020 Issue, Page 10)
The Illinois Department of Transportation says multiple projects are wrapped up or underway soon in the next year in the Metro East. The eight projects represent a total investment of more than $161.5 million with more than $16.1 million coming from the state’s Rebuild Illinois capital program. (Read More)

Anderson’s surgery center among growth plans in Edwardsville
(Illinois Business Journal, November 2020 Issue, Page 15)
Representatives from Anderson Healthcare, SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital and physician partners recently celebrated the completion of the Anderson Surgery Center in Edwardsville. (Read More)

Art Sculpt International is 2020 SIUE SBDC Metro East Start-Up Challenge Winner
(SIUE, 10/30/20)
Art Sculpt International, of Fairview Heights, is the winner of the Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC) for the Metro East at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s seventh annual Metro East Startup Challenge (MESC). (Read More)

Big Expansion Planned For Raging Rivers Waterpark Now Under New Ownership
(Riverbender, 11/30/2020)
GRAFTON - The St. Louis area attraction, Raging Rivers Waterpark, was recently purchased by an investment group and is planning an expansion and upgrade for the 2021 season.

Roundtable talk to focus on new exporting incentives in Southern Illinois
(Illinois Business Journal, 12/01/2020)
Small businesses in Southern Illinois are invited to participate in the third in a series of free Virtual Roundtable talks regarding exporting and reaching international buyers. (Read More)

Schnuck Markets deploys robot to more than half of stores
(Illinois Business Journal, November 2020 Issue, Page 6)
Three years after introducing Simbe Robotics’ autonomous robot Tally to select stores to enhance inventory management, Schnuck Markets Inc. said it’s launching the technology in an additional 46 stores, including the Metro East. (Read More)
Thank you to the Leadership Council's Program Sponsors: