For over 10 years the communities of Edwardsville (population 21,491) and Glen Carbon (population 10,425) have been working cooperatively with a joint chamber and a joint economic development effort. Driving around the two communities, it was obvious this cooperative effort was yielding some incredible dividends for both communities. And, in studying their strategic plans, it is obvious the best days for both communities lie in the future.
Edwardsville is the third oldest town in the state of IL, having been founded by Colonel Benjamin Stephenson, one of the original signers of the Declaration of Independence. Five governors of the state were originally from the town. Abraham Lincoln litigated in the local courthouse. As you would imagine in a town with that kind of history, the downtown is incredible and they are developing it into one of those “special sense of places” that I’m seeing which are growing in importance for recruiting in young people. The city is making efforts to reopen the old Wildey Theatre, a 1919 Vaudeville Theater that was closed in 1983, which could act as a wonderful anchor for a growing downtown.
Southern Illinois University—Edwardsville, sits on 2,660 picturesque, wooded and rolling acres on the outskirts of town. The campus started 50 years ago when a group of local citizens decided that they needed a local college and worked to establish the campus in Edwardsville. From a small base as a commuter college the university has grown into the largest campus in the St. Louis metro area with over 13,000 full time students. It is quickly developing into a major research institution with the National Corn to Ethanol Research Center and adjacent research laboratory as magnets for the clustering of related jobs and businesses.
The communities are rapidly growing their jobs with two industrial parks of almost 3,000 acres opened within the last 10 years. Already, over 3,200 jobs have been created in the rapidly growing distribution and logistics industries. Another 1,000 acre park is planned by another national company, with plans to open it in 2007.
Rounding out the equation for Edwardsville/Glen Carbon is their wonderful trail system which is run by their transit system. The 85 mile trail system was set up in the early 1990s to preserve rail corridors for future light rail possibilities and has received more than $15 million in federal and state grants to develop. The system includes nine loops of 10 to 30 miles and a way to be able to ride all the way to downtown St. Louis.
Edwardsville/Glen Carbon has all of the attributes that make them an attractive location for expansion. It has a very strong educational system, wonderful housing stock, unique historical buildings and strong recreational assets.