Manar Unemployment HearingrEAST ALTON – Community leaders, business officials and economic experts from across downstate Illinois testified during a Senate hearing Monday regarding historic pockets of unemployment plaguing the region and how the state can better address the lingering need for jobs.

“Illinois is home to some of the most successful businesses in the world, but at the same time there are communities throughout our state that have seen nearly a decade of high unemployment,” said Senator Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat who’s organized similar hearings across the state. “We need an economic development strategy that not only enhances our successes, but also targets areas in need of assistance.”

Local and regional economic development boards and associations are often spokespersons for the state when businesses look to expand or relocate to Illinois. Monica Bristow, President of the RiverBend Growth Association, echoed the need for a state-wide economic development plan stating, “It would help from a marketing standpoint if we could present a state-wide plan or strategy to businesses interested in expanding or moving to Illinois,” Bristow said. “We need a uniform plan that we can point to.”

The East Alton hearing was the third in a serious scheduled in recent months by Manar. Previous hearings were in Decatur and Naperville. The goal of the hearings is for state business and community leaders to provide feedback about what the state’s doing right to encourage economic growth and where it can improve and produce better results.

“The communities we’ve visited are unique, but time and again we’ve heard similar stories about the lack of a state economic strategy or plan,” Manar said. “We have to do a better job of marketing the state to businesses locally and globally. I know we can do better."

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