When I list the nice things about living in Southern Illinois, it is calm, quiet, smog free, people are nice, commutes are short, many of the frustrations of big city life are minimized, every commercial good you might want to buy is available easily. I guess if all you want to do is live a happy little life, this is a great place. A question I have been asking myself of late is can you live a life of great accomplishment here? If you can be happy, but not have great accomplishment, is that enough?
I have found living here one of our greatest challenges in trying to do economic development in Southern Illinois is that our most motivated people leave. As a matter of fact, one of the great pleasures of living the West Coast is hiring the Midwestern engineers who have moved to try their hand at the big time. Like an actor going to New York, almost all the people who are going to try to make their mark on this world move to be a little fish in a big pond, then work their way up.
SIU moves professors here to jobs that are pretty high quality based on quality of the work. If you are going to be a high school teacher, this is a fine place to do it. A few people have started companies that are very interesting and fulfilling. I certainly don't want to imply that being a librarian isn't a good life and worth living, but you have to decide if that life is enough for you.
As you know from reading my little blog, I see the world differently then most everyone else. In 1984, I was 21 years old and I left this place to go to Silicon Valley. I wasn't always happy, I was often stressed out and over worked, I got laid off or quit a number of jobs, but I was trying to live a life of great accomplishment and I was surrounded by people trying to do the same. There is joy to sharing the struggle with like minded people that I have missed for the last few years. I have my allies and friends, but we are the counter culture here. Maybe I'm just sick of being called lucky?
The rural economic development experts say that we aren't going to be able to attract big factory or corporate headquarters to places like this, we just don't have the money to pay for the blackmail/tax cuts required. It is cheaper and more possible to support and encourage your local entrepreneurs to create new business then steal them from somewhere else. Maybe Southern Illinois doesn't have a culture of entrepreneurship and might think about developing one at the local government level? What we are doing now isn't working well enough, we don't have enough entrepreneurs.
Your comments are welcome.