Summit targets Madison County economic development

Bob Pieper For Chronicle Media

Local officials are now branding the Midwest Corridor, centered in large part around Madison County for attracting greater economic development for the Metro East region.

Establishing Madison County as a nothing-less-than a “Model Innovative County” (M.I.C.) is the ambitious goal of an upcoming, county-wide, economic development summit meeting, now being organized by Madison County Community Development (MCCD).

The Madison County M.I.C. Summit 2017 is scheduled for Thursday and Friday, April 6 and 7 at Lewis & Clark Community College’s N.O. Nelson Campus in Edwardsville.

The MCCD is hoping to attract a wide array of business people, community leaders, and government officials, to launch a county-wide development drive that will reflect contemporary changes in the nation’s technological and economic landscape, said Kristen Poshard, chief deputy director of Madison County Community Development.

In many ways, Madison County is a microcosm of America’s Midwestern industrial rustbelt, county officials note.

On the county’s west end, once thriving factory towns like Alton and Granite City have for decades seen population loss and prolonged economic downturns in the wake of plant closings and scale-backs.

However, on the county’s eastern side, Edwardsville and Glen Carbon continue to see unprecedented growth, thanks to development of the I-55 Corridor warehousing and distribution district and growth at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

As leader of a multi-county southwestern Illinois economic development program several years ago, Poshard has won national recognition for her work in job retention and the transitioning of laid-off workers to new careers in emerging field.

She now hopes to use many of the same strategies to help usher in a new era of economic prosperity across Madison County.

The county, and the Metro-East in general, is already a focal point of what regional St. Louis area leaders have begun branding as the Midwest Corridor – a freight hub encompassing the confluence of three interstate highways — Interstates 55, 64 and 70 — the Mississippi River, and several major railroads.

On the Missouri side of the St. Louis region, business leaders in North St. Louis County and in the City of Fenton have already begun developing of distribution centers much like Edwardsville’s I-55 Corridor complex. Poshard believes Madison County could soon become a model for other areas as well.

According to the program agenda, the two-day conference will be divided into 13 sections encompassing:

Job Creation — Logistics and manufacturing; building on technology entrepreneurships

Education — Apprenticeships; vocational studies including “Crib to Career” programs

Leadership Training— Presented by former U.S. Congressman and Southern Illinois University President

Glen Poshard

Alternative energy — Madison County alternative energy options; Ameren investment

Healthcare initiatives — “Retired in the Midwest Golf Cart Communities;” Hospital programs to prevent homelessness

Technology/broadband — Connecting rural areas; cyber security 2017

Infrastructure upgrades — Immediate bridge investments, critical services for enterprise zones

Transportation extensions — “Transportation = retention”; mass transit opportunities

Affordable housing — The new look of affordable housing; career path: rental to homeownership

Parks, recreation and arts—Tourism through recreation investments

Supportive and outreach services — Adult DARE: Workforce Health and Community Leadership Through Services.

Each session will be led by a panel of experts with a roundtable discussion following. Keynotes speakers and panelist will be announced on the Madison County MIC Summit webpage shortly.

While not located in Madison County, the Merchants Rail Bridge, spanning the Mississippi River between St. Louis and East St. Louis, will likely be a topic of discussion at the conference.  Replacement of the 128-year-old rail bridge — costing an estimated $222 million — was proclaimed the top economic development project for the entire St. Louis region this year, during a presentation by St. Louis Regional Freightway Executive Director Mary Lamie at the Jan. 25 meeting of the East-West Gateway Council of Government.

The bridge provides connections to six Class I railroads and currently carries more than 40 million gross tons of freight annually.  However, the aging double-track bridge can only accommodate one train at a time.

Also expected to be a major topic at the conference is replacement of the Interstate 270 Mississippi River Bridge between Madison County and St. Louis County.

The M.I.C. Summit is free to all.  However, space is limited and those interested in attending are asked to register in advance.  Registrants should email name, the organization they represent, and contact information to   Those registering should indicate whether they wish to attend the entire two-day event, a single day, or a specific session.