Carthage has developed out a strategic plan to boost economic development with the help of the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs at Western Illinois University.
Carthage's Community Development Director Amy Graham said community members spent five weeks developing a "Carthage Works" action plan by examining the city’s assets, strengths and weaknesses.
“We took steps that kind of followed a process of where are we right now, where do we want to be and how do we get there," Graham said. "Our goals are really not unlike any other rural community when you look at the research."
The community members identified five high-priority goals. They center on attracting small businesses, tourists, young professionals and agriculture-based companies.
- Strengthen our local businesses and be attractive to start-up businesses. Capitalize on agriculture and attract businesses and industries that are ag-related. Graham said agriculture is what Hancock County is all about.
- Grow our own by creating entrepreneurial opportunities for people. Help people start up small businesses by giving them the support and resources they need.
- Capitalize on our tourism. Building on current tourist attracts and promoting the arts, entertainment and cultural attractions.
- Attract young families and retain our youth. Have a strategic plan in place for welcoming newcomers to town and have resources available to them. Provide our young people with jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities.
- Revitalize downtown and the historic square. Maintain the downtown business district and encouraging people to purchase property, open businesses and shop locally.
There's a coinciding committee of community members for each of the five goals. The teams are working with the city to complete short and long term projects designed to advance community development and revitalize downtown.
Carthage paid $2,000 to the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs to participate in the mapping program. Graham said the city's already recouped those costs through educational and planning programs paid for by the institute.
This was Carthage's second time completing the program. The city also participated in 1991, the first year the service was offered.