Breakfast offers updates on EIU impact study, new businesses

Kalyn Hayslett, Editor-in-Chief


Over 240 Coles County residents received updates on Eastern’s economic impact, its new marketing efforts and new local retail businesses during the “Our Town” community breakfast Thursday morning.

Attendees read along as Angela Griffin, president of Coles Together, presented a statistic in the impact study. “Student spending in Coles County is $8.6 million for every 1,000 students enrolled at EIU,” the study said.

“It’s one thing to let the folks in the community and the region know what kind of impact Eastern is having in their lives. It’s another thing to show the state of Illinois policy makers’ return on investment they are receiving for the investment they give to Eastern,” Griffin said.

Angela Griffin, president of Coles Together, said in an interview the Eastern Illinois University Economic Impact Study planning began 11 months ago, and the budget impasse accelerated the process while introducing another target audience.

“This will help the people who live in our community understand the economic impact Eastern has, and maybe that understanding will lead to a better experience for the students who are temporary citizens in our community,” Griffin said.

Whether the person is from Mattoon or Charleston, it is important to realize that everyone is affected by Eastern, Griffin said.

“It’s a fair statement to say that most people that live in this community – if not directly – are only a few degrees removed from positive impacts that are created by Eastern,” Griffin said.

Coles Together is the economic development organization that helps recruit new businesses and helps with current manufacturers, including development manufacturing, warehouse distribution and advanced technology.

The statistics were created using two software applications, Regional Economic Modeling, Inc. and Commuting Pattern Data.

“We can have faith in the baseline numbers because these are companies that have provided this service for decades to all kinds of institutions,” Griffin said, “It’s a reliable method to predict the impact and economic development projects or an institution like Eastern.”

Both software programs provide baseline data that is collected from the census and the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

“Information like this helps me tell the story of Coles County; it helps me recruit businesses to the county,” Griffin said.

“I hope it will generate an even stronger connection or affinity to and for the university by the people who live in this region,” Griffin said.

Lynette Drake, interim associate vice president for student affairs, said to combat Eastern’s low enrollment, a new marketing firm will be selected and more focused visit days are in effect.

“15,000 prospective students expressed interest in Greek life, and every one of those 15,000 students received further information about the March 31 Greek visit day. They will receive free tickets to the air band concert,” Drake said.

Other marketing efforts include letters from alumni to prospective students, college-specific visit days and Future Panther Friday, which is tailored specifically to the prospective student’s interests.

James Hull, vice president for workforce solutions/community education, said Lake Land College has created partnerships with 30 high schools offering 233 dual credit programs and teaches 7,000 inmates a year through a correctional office partnership.

Hull said Lake Land ended 2016 with a balanced budget, even with only half of its normal state funding by eliminating staff positions and cutting expenses by 27%.

“Lake Land weathered the budget storm because the staff have stepped up to the plate and focused on maintaining an exceptional quality of education,” Hull said.

Chris Long, Charleston resident, said Griffin’s presentation on Eastern’s economic impact was especially interesting, as were the mayor’s updates.

“I did not know those jobs bring that much growth in the community, and it was good to see Charleston and Mattoon working together,” Long said.

Mattoon Mayor Tim Gover said residents can expect five new retailers, including a Dunkin’ Donuts, a Starbucks and an AT&T store to accompany the strip mall across from Cracker Barrel.

“My cardiologist does not want me to eat it (Dunkin’ Donuts) but it is coming soon,” Gover said.

Over the course of the year, 100 jobs were created from businesses like Copper Creek Cottage memory care center, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Harbor Freight Tools and Fujiyama Japanese Steakhouse, Gover said.

“Some good things are happening in Mattoon,” Gover said. “What’s good for Charleston is good for Mattoon – we work together.”

Charleston Mayor Brandon Combs said in 2016 Gavina Graphics created 12 jobs, Domino’s Pizza 30 jobs, and Aldi 10 jobs, along with 55 jobs at a new living facility and more at Windy City Pizza and 18th Street Garden Stop.

A worst and first map was used to identify the worst sidewalks and the first that need to be fixed; about 1.6 miles of sidewalk were replaced last year, Combs said.

Tourism advisory board member Brendan Lynch was recognized for helping improve the bike trail surrounding Lake Charleston. Charleston police officers were recognized for handling altercations peacefully and city council board members for exceptional service.

“I did not inherit the best thriving community, but the people in this city made a bleak time a bright time,” Combs said.


Kalyn Hayslett can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].