University News

WIU and Macomb Partner to Promote Community

March 30, 2016


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MACOMB, IL – The recent naming of Macomb as one of the nation's top 10 least expensive college towns to live in by Realtor.com shines a light on the quality of life and the myriad of opportunities available to local residents and to Western Illinois University students.

Macomb was listed as number three on the Realtor.com list, which was based, at least partially, on the average cost of a median home locally (listed as $100,900). But a deeper look at the community and its offerings reveals a partnership between the City of Macomb and Western that enhances the opportunities available locally.

At the heart of that partnership are WIU President Jack Thomas and Macomb Mayor Mike Inman, and their administrative teams, who work together to improve the city's quality of life for existing residents and to attract new residents and students to town and to campus. Another component of that partnership is attracting and retaining businesses to the Macomb community.

In addition to planning for the community's future, Thomas and Inman said the University plays a large part in offering a wide variety of events that appeal to a broad range of audiences.

"We are excited that Macomb has been named the third least expensive college town in the country," said Thomas. "Western Illinois University partners with the town and we have numerous activities and resources to offer."

Thomas added several University programs not only benefit Western, but also the region and the state. The University allows use of its facilities to enhance the ability to attract events to the region, such as the Macomb Balloon Rally and the holiday basketball tournament.

"We want to be good stewards; we want to be good partners," he said.

Regional Economic Development
Officials from the city and the University work together on many economic development efforts, including attracting new business and industry to the community. Previously, Thomas hosted campus forums as an opportunity for the WIU community to express what businesses they would ideally like to see locate in Macomb. Local economic development officials were also invited to those meetings.

"We want to make sure that as a college town, we have the amenities our students and residents want," said Thomas.

Inman added the Realtor.com ranking is "huge" for the city's effort to recruit new residents and businesses to the region.

"We have good property values that make Macomb an attractive option," said Inman. "The fact the University is here adds such a cultural dynamic to the community we would never have otherwise. We're a town of roughly 20,000 people, and the University's presence adds a dynamic we could never enjoy without it."

Inman said other important factors that make Macomb more attractive to new residents and businesses, as well to students, are the abundant cultural and recreational opportunities. Some of those events and celebrations are hidden treasures to those new to the community, and add to the quality of life in Macomb, he added.

"While the Midwest faced an out-migration of residents from many communities during previous decades due to the decline in manufacturing jobs, Macomb has remained vital because of its ability to 'manufacture education,'" Inman said. "That, for the most part, has been sustainable for our community – at the end of the day, it's stability that we have to sell."

Thomas and Inman speak to graduate students in student services at Western once a year, and they reinforce the stability of Western and Macomb.

"We're kind of the steady Freddy. If you were looking for someone to marry, we'd be the perfect spouse because we are going to be with you all the time; there's not going to be these huge swings in our relationship," said Inman. "It's going to be constant and it's going to be sustainable. I think that's what you get in the Midwest."


Promoting Western
When Thomas and Inman talk to prospective and new WIU students, both said they highlight campus safety as an important factor in the choice.

"They're going to be safe and they are going to be treated with respect. They're going to have an opportunity to grow, and their basic needs, both academically, socially and the like, are all going to be met here, and it's going to allow them to concentrate on what they came here to do, and that's get an education," said Inman.

Thomas said he first highlights the quality of Western's outstanding academic programs when he bumps into tours of students on campus.

"That's why students come to our University. They want to hear about those programs and the kind of education we provide here," Thomas said. "We are a friendly University. People here are like a family. When you go into the town of Macomb, it's a friendly place to be."

Thomas encourages students to ask questions to learn more about the region and what it offers students.

"We want to make sure our students, coming here as first-time freshmen, get acclimated to not only the University, but also acclimated to the city and knowing where things are," said Thomas. "We want to make sure they are successful."

Inman said improved transportation, including twice-a-day Amtrak service between Macomb and Chicago, upgraded infrastructure (such as new highways from most every direction) and renovations at Argyle Lake State Park in Colchester and Spring Lake in rural Macomb have made the area even more desirable.

Recreational Opportunities

One hidden treasure on the edge of Macomb is WIU's Horn Field Campus, which offers a variety of options to guests, including team building and leadership development, an 11-acre fall corn maze, a high ropes course and a variety of academic opportunities for both University and community members, as well as visitors. The space can also be rented by groups and is used by various academic programs at Western.

Horn Field Campus Program Coordinator Mindy Pheiffer said affordable recreational opportunities, including those provided by Western, make the community great.

"We definitely have a wealth of leisure opportunities in the area," she said.

She added Horn Field Campus also partners with various local groups, such as the Macomb Park District and Western Illinois Museum, to co-promote events.

Horn Field Campus is currently working on a fundraising campaign to help put up a new building so the site can host larger groups.

For more information about the opportunities available at Western, visit wiu.edu.

The accompanying video was created by Jeff Marta, a graduate student in sport management from Lisle (IL). He also received his bachelor's degree in broadcasting from Western.

Posted By: Jodi Pospeschil (JK-Pospeschil@wiu.edu)
Office of University Relations