Illinois appears to be losing ground demographically, comparing the 2010 census to that of 2000. “Between 18 and 44 years old, we lost 12 percent of our people, and in fact the contiguous states lost 6.7 (percent),” says Norm Walzer, senior research scholar at the Center for Governmental Studies at Northern Illinois University. “When you look at the 45-to-64-year-olds, 11 percent of a gain for us, and 20 percent for the surrounding states.”

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Walzer, who says Illinois does appear to be a winner agriculturally, shared plenty of information for a Downstate economic conference in Decatur.

Cooperation among Downstate Illinoisans is key, says Brian Moody, an economic development official in Tuscola. “A discussion in our region about the need for better maps of winery locations led to a GIS mapping project which has increased traffic -- I believe in less than a year they’ve had over 10,000 hits to their site -- and won an award from the state comptroller,” he said.

Walzer says people should fight the temptation to become obsessed with lists and rankings: “34 of the 50 states can brag they’re in the top 10. They just have to pick which of the five industries they want to point to.”

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