News From Terre Haute, Indiana

March 31, 2010

Clark County development officials work to keep businesses moving forward

More than two dozen business leaders attend seminar

Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

CASEY, Ill. — Clark County, Ill., business and economic development leaders are keeping a positive attitude despite the county’s high unemployment rate.

In January, Clark County, home to the towns of Marshall, Martinsville and Casey, recorded an unemployment rate of 17.1 percent — well over the state’s January rate of 11.3 percent.

But county development officials are working to keep area businesses moving forward despite the gloomy economic news.

“We’ll get through this,” said Tiffany Macke, program manager for the University of Illinois extension service in Clark County. Macke helped organize a business workshop at the Casey Westfield High School on Monday night. More than two dozen area business leaders attended, representing big companies such as TRW and small businesses such as Great House of Pizza and Richard’s Farm restaurant.

“I have hope for Clark County, but things are a little dismal right now,” said Mary Gard, an accountant at First Neighbor Bank who attended the workshop. In response to lost jobs, many Clark County residents are looking to start their own businesses right now, she said.

At the same time, other residents are returning to school for additional training for new jobs, Gard said. This may not produce new economic growth in Clark County in the short term, but “I think it’s going to help in the long term,” she said.

At Monday’s business workshop, local business leaders were shown ways to use new “social media,” such as Facebook, to expand their reach. They were also shown ways to make connections with skilled workers.

Chris Fegan, regional manager for Employment Plus, said there are some positive employment signs in Clark County right now. For example, his company is seeing the normal “spring uptick” in requests for new hires.

“That part is encouraging, because we didn’t see that last year,” Fegan said. “There are some jobs out there.”

Employment Plus is hosting a job fair today at the Martinsville Public Library from noon to 4 p.m., Fegan noted.

Meanwhile, Edie Wittenmyer of White Stallion Creations in Marshall also sees reason for hope in Clark County. Many local business and political leaders keep positive attitudes, and the local community has a strong sense of working together.

“There’s always hope,” Wittenmyer said. “We have an excellent community.”

Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.