The Economic Alliance of Kankakee County (EAKC) is intent on convincing more of its workers to stick around after the whistle blows.
“We’re finding out that a lot of the workers don’t have a clue of the things that we have in Kankakee County,” EAKC President and CEO Tim Nugent told the Daily Journal. “They work in the county but don’t live here.”
Indeed, the latest EAKC figures show that nearly 20,000 people from outside the county commute to jobs here, accounting for more than 44 percent of the county's employees as of 2017.
“It’s great that you’re coming here to work,” Nugent said. “We’re glad that we’ve got the jobs. It’s nice to be a community where people are commuting to work. What would it take to get you to live here?”
In search of an answer, Nugent says that officials recently visited several local companies and spoke with employees who work in the county but live elsewhere.
“Some of the reasons given are they don’t feel we have some of the amenities,” Nugent said. “They don’t think we have the restaurants, we don’t have the nightlife, we don’t have the bike paths, we don’t have the parks. We don’t have a lot of different things they’re looking for. Come to find out, we have all that stuff. They just didn’t know about it.”
Going forward, Nugent says that his mission will be getting that information into the facilities “and to human resources people so that when these people are looking for festivals that they know what festivals are happenings in Kankakee County.”
With the Kankakee River State Park, Merchant Street MusicFest and the Kankakee River, Nugent says there is much to love about the area. In addition, Area Development magazine recently ranked Kankakee County 65th out of 399 U.S. metropolitan areas in terms of current economic conditions. The county ranked sixth in midterm growth, seventh in economic strength and 249th in prime workforce rank.
“Working on the workforce is going to be something that is huge over the course of the next several years,” Nugent said.