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The Mattoon In Motion program continues to run strong.

As a refresher, a group of over 60 community members have taken part in this program since early August of last year. The group has been working on ways to guide Mattoon into future success from multiple standpoints, including workforce development, recruiting new business ventures, promoting our area through tourism and events, development of our youth, improvements and enhancements to our parks and recreation opportunities, and future growth and revitalization of our area's housing and rental space.

The six different Mattoon in Motion groups held a successful Town Hall meeting last month, where over 250 community members were present. The individual groups showcased their visions for Mattoon's future. Each group has added members to the cause, and there are already success stories being generated through the program.

One example was the Mattoon Bike Plan Brainstorming Workshop held this past Wednesday at the Burgess-Osborne Auditorium. The parks and recreation group secured a grant from the Lumpkin Family Foundation for Ride Illinois to come to town to help develop a city-wide bicycle transportation plan. This plan will be an enhancement to the new paved bike path that will travel between Mattoon and Charleston and should be completed later this fall. One of the suggestions is to continue the bike path all the way from the train depot out to Lake Mattoon in order to have a continuous route spanning over 20 miles.

The business development group has successfully secured a Peace Corp Fellow through the Illinois Institute of Rural Affairs. Carlos Ortega will be living and working in Mattoon as an intern for community development for 11 months starting Sept. 1 of this year.

The Peace Corp Fellow Program places individuals in the community based on a successful application and recruitment process. Mattoon was in competition with several other communities to utilize the services of the Peace Corp Fellow. Based on the quality of the application submitted, letters of community support and a very pleasant personal tour of Mattoon, we were chosen as the location by Carlos and The Illinois Institute of Rural Affairs.

The group is very excited about the opportunities that will present themselves with Carlos being able to dedicate his entire 11 months towards economic development and other opportunities to improve Mattoon.

Carlos is working towards a master's degree in public policy and administration through Western Illinois University. He spent four years as a Peace Corp volunteer in Kenya and Namibia organizing workshops and events with local businesses, town councils and health officials. He currently works with the Small Business Development Center in Macomb helping small businesses develop business plans and finding opportunities for young business professionals.

I know our community will welcome Carlos with open arms and help him achieve his goals. We look forward to Carlos assisting in Mattoon's continued growth and prosperity. Mattoon is in motion and the future is bright.

Ed Dowd is the executive director of the Mattoon Chamber of Commerce.

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