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Mattoon community planning projects discussed

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MATTOON -- Participants in the Mattoon in Motion community planning effort plan to survey the needs of local businesses and develop a streamlined application for housing rehabilitation assistance programs.

These are some of the projects that participants are working on as they prepare for presenting Mattoon in Motion's community planning goals during a town meeting that is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. March 8 at the Mattoon Area Family YMCA.

Last fall, participants attended a series of public meetings at which they ultimately established six community planning goal areas for Mattoon -- workforce training, economic development, tourism promotion, youth development, parks and recreation upgrades, and housing improvements. They also formed subcommittees to develop projects related to these areas.

The Mattoon in Motion participants met Thursday evening at Lake Land College's Webb Hall to give updates on their various projects.

For example, Mattoon Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ed Dowd said he and his fellow workforce training subcommittee members plan to soon conduct an email survey of the needs of business in the Mattoon and Charleston areas. He said this survey will be conducted with the help of the Charleston Area Chamber of Commerce and Lake Land.

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Dowd said the survey will have a particular focus on workforce needs. He said the results of the survey will be shared with Eastern Illinois University, Lake Land, and area school districts to help them tailor their workforce training programs to meet the needs of local businesses.

"Our goal is to get them working together and see what the results lead us to," Dowd said.

As another example, local businesswoman Clair Kaye said she and her fellow housing improvements subcommittee members recently met with a representative of the Coles County Regional Planning and Development Commission to discuss the myriad of housing rehabilitation funding programs that the commission administrates.

Kaye said the subcommittee wants to help created a "pared down" single application that homeowners can fill out for housing rehabilitation funding. She said the planning commission could then use this application to sort out what funding programs are applicable to each application. She said this application could also help the planning commission develop a database of those in need of housing rehabilitation assistance.

Mattoon in Motion is part of the MAPPING program offered by the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs at Western Illinois University. The Mattoon Chamber of Commerce recruited a cross-section of about 60 residents to take part in the initial planning meetings last fall.

The Mattoon Area Community Foundation helped arrange for the program to be offered locally. Monetary donations from the community are paying for the program costs.

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