August 12, 2004: Headlines: Fellows: Prairie Advocate News: Peace Corps fellow could jump start county development efforts

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Peace Corps Library: Fellows: August 12, 2004: Headlines: Fellows: Prairie Advocate News: Peace Corps fellow could jump start county development efforts

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Peace Corps fellow could jump start county development efforts

 Peace Corps fellow could jump start county development efforts

Peace Corps fellow could jump start county development efforts

Peace Corps fellow could jump start county development efforts
County Board considers application, spending $20,000
By DIANE KOMISKEY - Prairie Advocate Reporter

MOUNT CARROLL—Finance Committee Aug. 12. The request comes from the County Planning and Development Committee and is supported by the County Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, CEDS, committee.

Western Illinois University's Community Fellows Program recruits returned Peace Corps volunteers into degree programs in rural community development. Each fellow earns an academic degree and serves an 11-month paid internship in a small town or rural planning agency.
September due date

An application is due in September for a fellow to begin work in January. If none is available then, the county could reapply for a June starting date. During his internship, Carroll County's intern likely would:

­be able to access the expertise of his college professors.

-work toward a master's degree.

-likely be asked to help the county community create a public-private group with a clearly defined purpose, adequate funding and sound organizational structure.
Advantage 1, public-private group

"I personally think this is much better than hiring a county person," said District 2 board member Helen LaTouche, R-Chadwick, a member of the Budget and Finance Committee and Planning and Development committees. LaTouche wrote a job description for a county administrator with economic development duties. She quickly saw that the two jobs did not mesh well. The planning committee began to focus instead on hiring an economic development coordinator. A presentation from Phyllis Wilhelm of Lake Carroll, who heads a Madison utility's economic development department, led the group to consider forming a public-private group.

LaTouche expressed her sentiment Aug. 12 about not hiring a county administrator to the budget planners. It echoed what Ogle County Economic Development Director Lynne Kilker had voiced the night before.

"I am so proud of you," Kilker said. A county employee, she explained a pitfall she faced when trying to maintain the confidentiality necessary to attract, negotiate with, and land new businesses and be subject to the Illinois Open Meetings Act and Freedom of Information Act as interpreted by the Ogle County State's Attorney. The acts are based on the public's right to know what their government is doing.
Rock Falls' success

Kilker spoke after the Planning and Development Committee and CEDS group heard Christian Tscheschlok talk about how he had helped organize the Rock Falls Community Development Corporation when he was a Peace Corps fellow. He now serves as the corporation's executive director.

"If you want to do it, do it right. Bring on a full-time person with experience," said Tscheschlok. "Do not shortchange yourself on resources. You'll waste your time otherwise."

He said that doing it right in Rock Falls resulted in:

-a 1,025 percent increase in new enterprise zone investment, a total of $4.5 million,

-the creation of 103 new jobs and

-$4 million in growth and improvements on the Interstate 88-Illinois 40 corridor.

"In one year, (the city of Rock Falls), reduced its investment, doubled its return and realized a multi-million dollar increase as a result of a public-private organization," Tscheschlok said.

The influx of private funds allowed the city to cut $40,000 from its budget.

The assist for government must continue. Tscheschlok said that an economic development organization with 501 (c )(3) status must continually justify its charitable organization by showing that it is "lessening the burdens of government."
Ramrod needed

Tom Kocal, CEDS treasurer and Prairie Advocate publisher, said the overwhelming concern he had heard from the public was about "doing it right, doing it enough and not wasting efforts."

Tscheschlok said that having a dynamic advocate to spearhead the organization's creation and an effective coordinator to implement the group's strategies is necessary for success.

Lou Schloderback, County Board District 3 member, R-Lake Carroll, said it was a lot easier for a city like Rock Falls to organize than a county.
Volunteers failed

"I just don't know if it can be done (in Carroll County)," Schloderback said. He and CEDS Farm Bureau rep Pat McCue of Lanark had served on a previous volunteer economic development group more than 10 years earlier. Its members initially were enthusiastic, but the volunteers burned out and the group's lack of funding prevented it from moving beyond the planning stage.

"Can we do this as volunteers or do we need to hire someone to ramrod this through?" asked Pat McCue, CEDS Farm Bureau representative. "You may have hit on it," Tscheschlok said. He urged the group to consider involving a "neutral entity," someone from outside the county, to serve as advocate and coordinator.
Motivated by unemployment

The groups decided it was in the county's best interest to apply for a Peace Corps fellow. Kocal said Savanna, which had talked about hiring a Peace Corps fellow, was willing to throw its support behind a countywide effort.

Carroll County's unemployment rate topped at 11.2 percent last year. It has continued to have a higher percentage of residents without jobs than any other county in northwest Illinois. New state laws are expected to erode the county's tax base.

When this story was prepared, here was the front page of PCOL magazine:

This Month's Issue: August 2004 This Month's Issue: August 2004
Teresa Heinz Kerry celebrates the Peace Corps Volunteer as one of the best faces America has ever projected in a speech to the Democratic Convention. The National Review disagreed and said that Heinz's celebration of the PCV was "truly offensive." What's your opinion and who can come up with the funniest caption for our Current Events Funny?

Exclusive: Director Vasquez speaks out in an op-ed published exclusively on the web by Peace Corps Online saying the Dayton Daily News' portrayal of Peace Corps "doesn't jibe with facts."

In other news, the NPCA makes the case for improving governance and explains the challenges facing the organization, RPCV Bob Shaconis says Peace Corps has been a "sacred cow", RPCV Shaun McNally picks up support for his Aug 10 primary and has a plan to win in Connecticut, and the movie "Open Water" based on the negligent deaths of two RPCVs in Australia opens August 6. Op-ed's by RPCVs: Cops of the World is not a good goal and Peace Corps must emphasize community development.

Read the stories and leave your comments.

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Story Source: Prairie Advocate News

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