Macomb is a creative place.
The director of the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs, Chris Merrett, says the hometown of Western Illinois University – where his institute is based – rates highly on the “creative class index.”
“It can have an artisanal aspect to it, value-added agriculture, local foods,” says Merrett in explaining what about Macomb may stand out. But the factors Merrett cited have been around for generations; they are by no means new, though the way of looking at them may be. “We know there are many parts of the rural Midwest that are linking these ideas of local agriculture, tourism, the arts, (and) in Downstate Illinois, the wine trail,” he said.
Merrett says it could give hope for the parents who have spent tens of thousands of dollars so their child can get a degree in, say, art history. “I’d like to think the fine arts, the humanities are themselves a marketable skill. You get a group of creative people together in a downtown area, there’s a critical mass of vitality that can be an engine for growth,” he said.