Someone commented a while back that I was to focused on Carbondale, so I thought I might comment a little on Marion.
Have you been to Marion recently? There are houses going up all over the place! The town is growing like a weed and everyone feels good about themselves. The school system is below average and the city is unzoned. Code enforcement is light, but the town has a pro-business mayor and a strong, long-term economic development plan. The people are nice and they have an outdoor pool.
Marion is an economic development success story. They have figured out how to make themselves the service leader for visitors traveling on Highway 57 in the region, so there is a thriving restaurant and hotel industry. In addition, Marion has been able to attract a few businesses, including the big win of Aisan Manufacturing.
When you think about Marion's success, you have to think about Aisan. They are up to about 1000 employees in Marion and the experts say you get around 4 to 5 service jobs for every manufacturing job. All together Aisan's impact looks to be about 4,000 to 6,000 total jobs in the area. That is a whole lot of growth for a little city like Marion.
The bad news is Marion has done tax giveaways to everyone, so the city doesn't have a strong infrastructure, they have refused to sign up for Rend Lake water until recently (but I guess their water problems are behind them now?), the city is unzoned (so businesses are parked on residential streets in a hodge podge way. There have always been rumors that the Marion services are weak, fire and sewer being mentioned first.
Stable leadership, pro-business city government, near the highway, lucky to land a big manufacturer, is the Marion story right now. Hopefully, they will get a handle on any problems going forward. Marion is a Southern Illinois success story and the city government should be congratulated on their good work.