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UPDATED: Mattoon applying for grant to help Blue Cross, Blue Shield's planned expansion in mid-2020
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UPDATED: Mattoon applying for grant to help Blue Cross, Blue Shield's planned expansion in mid-2020

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Editor's note: This story has been updated.

MATTOON -- The city is seeking to help Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois move its Mattoon office to a new, larger location on the east end of town where the company would add at least 48 new jobs.

During a special meeting tonight, the City Council voted to apply for a $1.2 million state Community Development Block Grant to help fund water/sewer line and street work for the development of this facility in the Coles Centre business park at the southwest corner of Illinois Route 16 and Lerna Road.

The Coles County Regional Planning & Development Commission is helping the city apply for this grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity. Grant application documents on file with the commission show that Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois plans to move its Mattoon office from 1100 Broadway Ave. to the new location.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois spokeswoman Colleen Miller said after Tuesday's meeting that the company is committed to expanding access to quality, cost-effective health care to as many communities as possible in Illinois.

"We’ve been proud to call Mattoon home to one of our service centers since 1990. We are now partnering with a local developer to modernize our presence in the community. We expect to open an updated service center in mid-2020. The decision to further invest in Mattoon demonstrates our commitment to supporting and empowering our local communities," Miller.

Commission Executive Director Kelly Lockhart said prior to the meeting that to qualify for such as Community Development Block Grant, the participating business needs to pledge to create at least one new job for approximately every $25,000 in grant funding. He said this would result in at least 48 new jobs as part of the proposed grant application.

"With the current local economy, this project will have a major positive impact on the community, creating several jobs," Lockhart said during the meeting.

Lockhart said the grant funding will be used to perform street construction and a water main extension, plus sanitary sewer, sidewalks, lighting, and traffic control improvements. He said the grant will also pay for a portion of the engineering and the grant administration.

"Private funding, totaling more than 4 million dollars, will be used to construct a new building at the Coles Centre development," Lockhart said.

Blue Cross Blue Shield's current office is located in a former supermarket building about three blocks east of downtown, where this office has been in operation for more than 30 years. Company officials could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. Local officials have estimated recently that the Blue Cross Blue Shield office employs well more than 100 workers.

City Administrator Kyle Gill said Tuesday morning that the grant is related to the construction of a "call center" building where Coles Centre Parkway curves southeast to Lincolnland Home Medical Equipment. Gill said he is limited in what he can say about this prospective project, but estimated that this center would initially have 300 employees with the possibility of adding 100 later.

Agracel, Inc. of Effingham, which provides economic development services, owns the land where the construction project would take place. Agracel President Dean Bingham said Tuesday afternoon that he also is limited in what he can say about this prospective project, but noted that plans call for the construction of a two-story, 50,000-square-foot building that could accommodate more than 250 employees.

"It will be a very attractive building. We are trying to develop a great project out there," Bingham said. He added that Agracel is fielding inquires from a couple of other possible projects that are looking at Coles Centre.

Gill said the city also will apply for a $1 million grant from the Illinois Department of Transportation to help fund the planned infrastructure work. He said the new section of roadway would curve southwest around the "call center" and connect with Coles Centre Parkway southeast of the center.

Once the grant applications are submitted, Gill said the city hopes to get an answer from state officials within two to six months. If one or both grants are not awarded, he said the city will work with the project developer on other infrastructure funding options.

Gill said some grant funding may be available from the city's Interstate 57 tax increment financing district, which includes Coles Centre. He said Lincolnland Home Medical Equipment is the only building that has been constructed in this business park so far.

"We have had minimal development out there. We are hoping this (project) might spur some development," Gill said.

Contact Rob Stroud at (217) 238-6861. Follow him on Twitter: @TheRobStroud

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Rob Stroud is a reporter for the JG-TC, covering the city of Mattoon, Lake Land College, Cumberland County and areas including Oakland, Casey and Martinsville.

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