By Dave Dahl
DECATUR - Illinois appears to be losing ground demographically, comparing the 2010 census to that of 2000.
“Between 18 and 44 years old, we lost 12 percent of our people, and in fact the contiguous states lost 6.7 (percent),” said Norm Walzer, senior research scholar at the Center for Governmental Studies at Northern Illinois University. “When you look at the 45-to-64-year-olds, 11 percent of a gain for us, and 20 percent for the surrounding states.”
Walzer, who said Illinois does appear to be an across-the-board economic winner in agricultural, shared plenty of information at a downstate economic conference in Decatur. He warned that wages are increasingly disproportionate in urban vs. rural areas.
Walzer said Friday that people who live in one of the state’s 10 metro areas are going to be better off than people in rural areas.
"As you move ahead, the wages in the metro areas vs. wages in the non-metro areas ... that gap is widening. We've tracked probably 15-20 years and the spread is getting bigger," said Walzer.
Cooperation among downstate Illinoisans is key, added Brian Moody, an economic development official in Tuscola.
“A discussion in our region about the need for better maps of winery locations led to a GIS mapping project which has increased traffic -- I believe in less than a year they’ve had over 10,000 hits to their site -- and won an award from the state comptroller,” he said.
Walzer says people should fight the temptation to become obsessed with lists and rankings: “34 of the 50 states can brag they’re in the top 10. They just have to pick which of the five industries they want to point to.”