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How can commuters be converted to residents?

November 6, 2018

From one year to the next, Kankakee County created 2,900 jobs.

Now, Tim Nugent, president and CEO of the county’s Economic Alliance, says there are employers in the county that need workers. The demand for employees will only grow as Nucor Steel and CSL Behring expand.

One part of this equation will be to train local residents to fill these positions. That work already is underway at existing grade and high schools, along with the Kankakee Area Career Center, Kankakee Community College and Olivet Nazarene University.

But we have to expect some workers of the future will commute here. Nugent, who also is the mayor of Manteno, says he already notices those tail lights going north on Interstate 57 at the end of the day. How do we convince them to live here?

By creating a more attractive local housing market, that’s how. Some thoughts:

• A revival of Christmas in April ought to be considered. That charity drew together workers and supplies to revamp housing for people in need. It also helped push up property values.

• Likewise, Kankakee Neighborhood Housing, another group that has passed from the scene, used to have awards recognizing the owners and landlords who best rehabbed their properties.

• Parade of Homes showcases new homes by builders. This, of course, represents a huge investment on their part. But it does send a message that new growth is here.

• The area once also supported a Home Improvement Show. That hasn’t been held in years. Maybe the internet now renders that obsolete. Maybe not.

What we do know is the housing of the future will require some new construction with higher end amenities. Meanwhile, fixing up what we have now will benefit both the present and the future.

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