Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A little about Marion

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.


Anonymous said...

You are on the money when it comes to Marion, Peter. Marion has always been proactive when it comes to growth and bringing in new business. I can remember when the intersection of Route 13 and I-57 was nothing more than a Skelly's Truck Stop and that wasn't all that long ago. Carbondale, on the other hand, has SIU and doesn't worry so much about bringing in new business. However, Carbondale residents are fairly persnickity when it comes to zoning and high dollar city services. Thank goodness for the University Mall.
Marion residents, on the other hand, don't like government dictating the lay of the land. For years the city went without a property tax and essential services were provided. Carbondale really couldn't do that because of the size of its city government and its bueacracy.

Kyle Raccio said...

Marion is doing very well right now, minus the school situation. If you remember it two years ago it is nothing like today.

Some of those houses by the golf course (I forgot the name of the neighborhood) look gorgeous!

A friend of mine, who is getting his teaching degree, taught at the middle school. The school system there is awful and people are not learning. A lot of students do not know how to write a research paper yet, and they are heading into high school. That will cause a lot of problems.

I think a lot of times, with 'pro-business' you sacrifice 'pro-public education.' Bob Butler has been Mayor of Marion for way too long now.

He has more pluses than minuses in my book, but the minuses (like the lack of a quality education) are pretty darn strong.

Jonathan said...


Don't forget Marion's neighbor, Carterville. It's K-8 test scores have skyrocketed (nearly as good as Giant City, which is tops in the state). Lots of new house construction there too. We'll probably move there in a year or so.

BTW, I ran into the marketing director of the new baseball stadium over there. I'm VERY excited about having some form of pro ball to attend in the summer with my family. It seats 4,500 he tells me, with box seats and all the rest. Top notch.

Plus yes they have the pool. We have a golf course for the retired city, park district and county officials.

We were in a Carbondale gas station and he said that this was the first time in months that he had been to Carbondale.

What is the capitol of southern IL? Bye, bye Carbondale.

Lucy said...

I tend to agree with your assessment on Marion, Peter, but I'm wondering: Why is their holdout to join up with Rend Lake water seen as a bad thing?

Nearly all of Marion's neighboring cities are hooked up to the Rend Lake pipeline. Isn't it just good business sense to not put all your eggs in one basket and not every deer drink from the same pond?

Peter in Carbondale said...

Kyle - If the Marion schools were in the city government, I would agree that Butler was responsible for them. They aren't though.

Lucy - Marion spent years and lots of money trying to build a water system on land that had some ecological problem. Sometimes you should just accept that the state spent the big bucks and accept the gift.