When you say "Management and Planning Programs Involving Nonmetropolitan Groups," it doesn't sound too exciting.

But think of MAPPING the future of your community, and you should perk up a bit.

On Oct. 19, the MAPPING process was started with the Mattoon in Motion community planning effort. The local movement, part of the MAPPING program offered via the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs at Western Illinois University, is an ongoing push to map out future development in Mattoon.

To begin with, participants talked about some of the positives and negatives of life in Mattoon. At that first meeting, the focus was "Where are we now?" Dozens of community members attended and took part in numerous exercises, including what they love about Mattoon and what they don't like.

Common themes that emerged included dwindling income levels, a need for more "progressive" leaders to take new approaches to economic development, and more, as the JG-TC previously reported.

The generosity of the community's many civic groups and individual volunteers, plus the welcoming hometown feel of Mattoon as "not too big, not too small," were praised. Demographics were examined, as were opportunities for retail growth.

The whole idea is for a cross-section of the community to help color in a map of sorts of Mattoon's future. Long-range visions are discussed, and a plan of action for achieving the set goals is put in place.

The second MAPPING meeting yielded ideas such as a vision of Mattoon as a regional hub for workforce training and health care, a community that offers a wide variety of employment and cultural opportunities, as the JG-TC previously reported.

Participants were asked to offer "audacious goals" during that second meeting, with bold thinking encouraged. As one example, Mattoon Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ed Dowd said he envisions Lake Land College as becoming a regional center for vocational training and workforce development that draws a large influx of students and related development to town.

MAPPING members will meet each Thursday through Nov. 16.

Ultimately, participants will identify between three and six high-priority goals for the community, develop an action plan for implementation, and divide into groups to begin work toward the goals.

Finally, a public meeting will be held to share the ideas and projects with the community and invite wider participation.

It's not flashy, but planning ahead is a necessary part of life in general, and it's key to monitoring the heartbeat of any community. Without careful plans in any city, a retail business could be located in a residential neighborhood, where a 24-hour hustle and bustle might disturb nearby homeowners, for example.

Without things like MAPPING, any community is headed into the future nearly blindfolded, just feeling its way along and hoping prosperity lies ahead.

But with planning -- serious, bold, persistent foresight -- and a "map" in mind for a city's growth, current successes can be built upon, and new ventures can be welcomed with an eye toward putting them on the path to prosperity.

Mattoon will benefit greatly from the MAPPING process. We salute current participants and leaders for their help, and encourage all residents to get involved via the upcoming public meeting, its date and time to be determined, to discuss what the MAPPING folks have narrowed down as good goals for our town.

Let's look to the future with a plan in mind. MAPPING has the organizational system already in place to do so. We, the residents of Mattoon, must use these tools to our advantage.

Perk up and get involved.

-- JG-TC Editorial Board

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