Wednesday, December 17, 2008

That Famous Brain Bank

Many towns that I visit bemoan the fact that, “there aren’t any jobs here. Everyone moves away as soon as they can. We are down on our luck.”

If you are one of those towns, pay attention to my blog of yesterday and this one today. Bill Cook was born and raised in Canton, IL, and went onto great fame and fortune, starting his own medical equipment company. But, he did all of that in Bloomington, IN, where he went to college.

Mark Rothert, head of the Spoon River Partnership for Economic Development in Canton, wrote to Cook a year ago. Here is what the letter said:

Dear Mr. Cook:

My name is Mark Rothert and although we have never met we share a common bond of growing up in Canton, Illinois. I read an article about you in the Dec./Jan. 2007 issue of "Bloom Magazine" and thought I would write.

Canton has probably changed since you grew up here, but it was a great community then and still is today with much potential. However, Canton does face some major challenges. They include the former International Harvester Brownfield site, deteriorating housing, fewer employment opportunities, and a declining downtown.

I am the director of the Spoon River Partnership for Economic Development, a local 501(c)(3) charitable non-profit economic development organization for the Canton area, tasked with bringing new development, jobs, investment and business to the area, including revitalizing the downtown and the former IH site. I understand you played an integral role in the revitalization of Bloomington's downtown. I would be interested to come to Bloomington and meet with you to learn more about your past projects, talk about what we hope to achieve in Canton, and gauge your interest to help.

Basketball and music aside, I know you also deeply care about community, preservation, and producing results out of ideas. Your philanthropy in the Bloomington area to provide for the community, preserve historical sites and create results is truly admirable. It reminds me of what the Orendorffs and Ingersolls did in Canton so many years ago. Canton was once a booming town but has taken many hits over the past 30 years as I am sure you are aware. However with the support of successful Canton natives, we can become as proud of our city's future as we are of its past.

Thank you for your time and consideration of my request.

Cordially yours,Mark A. RothertExecutive DirectorSpoon River Partnership for Economic Development

Two weeks later, Mark Rothert received the following letter back:

Dear Mark:

Thank you for your letter. As you know, Canton has always been a special place for me.You are more than welcome to visit Bloomington and discuss the problems I see in Canton. We can tour Bloomington and have a look at what has happened in the last 25 years to this city. Mrs. Aimee Hawkins-Mungle has my itinerary and she can set up a day we can be together.

Best regards,

William A. CookChief Executive OfficerCook Group Incorporated

From that letter and subsequent visits Cook has begun a major reinvestment into his hometown. Do you have any Bill Cooks that used to live in your hometown?

Write to them today!

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