Welcome to Decatur/ Macon County!
You will find an open-arms welcome from the people of Decatur/Macon County The Chamber, area citizens, and businesses will do all they can to make your stay here (whether it's lifelong residency or a short visit) pleasant and rewarding.
Make 100 Merchant Street your first stop. Here at the Chamber we will provide you with a street map, area demographics, and any other information or guidance that you seek.
As you read this community book, you will get a taste of what our area has to offer. Whether its work, play, education, health care, or any other quality of life issue, you will find the Decatur area offers the best.
It's people such as you who have chosen to make this area their home, that make our community great. So, we eagerly await your visit to Decatur/Macon County
R. Joan Stewart
Metro Decatur Chamber of Commerce
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the Decatur area can be described in a single phrase, it would be
"the best of two worlds". Macon County, nestled in the
heartland of the prairie, offers residents both the easy-going charm of
bygone days and the excitement of modern living. Historic downtown
Decatur with its turn-of-the-century tree-lined streets, small shops,
urban parks and neighborhoods contrasts with the outer area's trendy
malls, upscale homes, and fine eateries of today's suburban lifestyles.
Yet residents, living and working together have a common interest,
making the Decatur area a good place to live and work. The area has
retained its unique small-town flavor, where the majority of the
residents live in their own homes-, where elected officials are on a
first-name basis with their constituents, This is a robust community,
too, rich in its own recreation opportunities, a wide variety from
professional organizations to clubs where the chief object is just
getting together for fun, Local shops and stores combine with national.
A dynamic community, Decatur provides the residential and commercial
infrastructure needed for future prosperity.
Summers bring visitors from all over the state to enjoy the outdoors and water sports offered by Lake Decatur. This five-basin lake, with it's 36 miles of shoreline provides a scenic atmosphere for cycling, hiking, boating and fishing. The Decatur Park District is well known for its outstanding array of year-round leisure and recreational activities for all ages and interests. Seasonal festivals, concerts, craft shows and parades serve to create community interest and fun.
The Decatur area is looking to the future, too, maintaining a vigorous program of development of its vacant land. A whole new retail corridor is under development along with redevelopment of its 22-block historic downtown area actively reclaiming old and dilapidated industrial sites for new residential and commercial use. New apartment complexes are located close to places of work, shopping and play The community reaches toward a bright future.
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Decatur traces its roots back to the year 1820 when William Downing built a house on the south bank of the Sangamon River. Nine years later, in 1829 when the area was in search of a county seat, a few early residents laid out and established a village at the bend of the river. The modest little settlement of 4 square blocks, bounded by Prairie, Water, Wood and Church streets was named for Commodore Stephen Decatur, U.S. naval hero of the Battle of Tripoli, The quiet village grew slowly, hardly noticing a young Abe Lincoln practicing law here from 1 838-1 857 as part of the Eighth judicial court. A turning point in the area occurred when the Great Western Railroad and the Illinois Central Railroad laid tracks bisecting the area, The junction of these two great railroads created a focal point for future commercial and industrial growth. The revitalized settlement was in its formative years when in 1 860, the Republican State Convention meeting here endorsed Lincoln as the "Rail-splitter" candidate for President. Decatur continued its political prominence when in 1 865, Richard J. Oglesby of Decatur was elected to the first of three separate terms as Governor of the state. The settlement grew steadily until the turn of the century, when pioneer banker James Millikin founded the university that bears his name. President Theodore Roosevelt delivered the dedication speech.
In 1 922, a new industry emerged when the A.E. Staley Manufacturing Co. began the first U.S. processing of soybeans, This was followed in 1939 by the Archer Daniel Midland Co. establishing a milling operation. By 1945, Decatur had become known as the "Soybean Capital of the World." Decatur continued to flourish as other industry found its way to the area. The Caterpillar Co., established full production of its world-leader, heavy, earth-moving equipment line in 1956. With the continued growth of these industries, together with the fine educational and cultural institutions, other industries were finding fertile ground for growth and began settling in the area.
Today the products shipped from the area include corn, soybean oil, earth-moving equipment, automobile tires and air-conditioners. The area also serves as a regional hub for health care, agriculture, and commerce and has two outstanding institutions of higher education. By the early 1950's, Decatur was well on its way to becoming a premier agribusiness hub. Decatur was the first home of the Staley Bears - now the Chicago Bears professional football team.
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Macon County is located in the prairie heartland of central Illinois, bounded on the north and west by Interstate 72 and on the east and south by Lake Decatur. The city enjoys week-end-close proximity to world-class cosmopolitan Chicago to the north, St, Louis to the south and Indianapolis to the east. It is an easy 36 miles to the state capital of Springfield. Three railroads serve the area. The Illinois Central-, Norfolk Southern and the Chessie system provide freight links to points throughout Illinois and neighboring states. A major bus line provides quick and frequent transportation to all points throughout the state.
The Decatur Airport is located ted in the southeast corner of Decatur, 4 miles from downtown. The airport celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1 996. In 1 988, 1 994 and 1 996 the Airport was designated Primary Airport of the Year by the Illinois Division of Aeronautics. A modern facility, the airport is equipped for the latest jet aircraft and currently handles 11 flights a day. Two commercial airlines maintain regular service - United Express to Chicago's O'Hare and Trans World Express to St. Louis. The Decatur-based United Parcel Service 727 is based at the airport and makes daily flights.
Decatur is intersected by Interstate 72 and US highway 36 and 51 and fed by Illinois highways 48 and 121. It is a natural hub for 44 interstate motor freight carriers. The city has all the benefits of a cosmopolitan city's services, yet the closeness and feel of a small-town community, This makes the Decatur area an ideal place to work, to raise a family, and to locate a business.
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The The Decatur area has a home for every lifestyle, from single-family homes to townhouses and apartments, offering a wide variety of styles and designs. Residential communities, whether new or old, are handsomely and meticulously maintained. All are close to transportation, shopping malls, schools, parks and recreation areas. Home sales are brisk, but homes remain quite affordable. Median housing cost is $67,1 65, up over $4,000 from a year ago, Upscale homes ranging from $100,000 to $200,000 make up the fastest growing market. Average cost for a 2-bedroom apartment is $469 per month.
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Decatur area shopping offers the best of two worlds. Merchant Street stores feature turn-of-the-century small shops behind vintage storefronts. Visit the specialty shops along Merchant street. There you will find men's and women's shops, children's clothing, jewelry, gift and art shops. Walk the tree-lined streets of downtown and be taken back to a time when shopping was a leisure activity. For a unique experience, visit the Franklin Mall where a warehouse has been converted to a collection of quaint shops and boutiques along a brick street. Stop and enjoy the sidewalk cafe. You will find art galleries and antique shops amid an atmosphere of Tiffany lamps, stained glass and wrought iron.
In addition you will want to visit the Hickory Point Mall in Forsyth. Here you will find nationally-known department stores like J.C. Penny Co., Von Maur, Kohl's P.A. Bergner & Co., and dozens of smaller but well-known shops. The mall area has a host of eateries and the Hickory Point Cinemas. Brettwood Village Shopping center offers yet another kind of shopping. There you will find rustic stores like Grandma's Attic and eateries like Old Country Buffet and Bob Evans Restaurant.
Other malls and strip shopping centers throughout the area offer shopping to suit every taste and pocketbook and challenge even the hardiest shopper to "shop till you drop."
Decatur area shopping offers the best of two worlds. Merchant Street stores feature turn-of-the-century small shops behind vintage storefronts. Visit the speciality shops along Merchant street. There you will find men's and women's shops, children's clothing, jewelry, gift and art shops. Walk the tree-lined streets of downtown and be taken back to a time when shopping was a leisure activity. For a unique experience, visit the Franklin Mall where a warehouse has been converted to a collection of quaint shops and boutiques along a brick street. Stop and enjoy the sidewalk cafe. You will find art galleries and antique shops amid an atmosphere of Tiffany lamps, stained glass and wrought iron.
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The Metro Decatur Chamber of Commerce and the Decatur-Macon County Economic Development Foundation are proud of the vigorous business climate in recent years and don't mind telling you at every opportunity The non-profit corporations coordinate federal, state and local resources to encourage private investment in the Decatur area. Programs such as Enterprise Zone Tax Incentives, Targeted jobs Tax Credit, Decatur Revolving Loan Fund and Employment and Training Assistance attract new investment each year.
There is no perfect barometer for business forecasting, but certain
indicators bode well for the area economy Employment has risen steadily
since dropping during the early 1980's. Several major manufacturers
have maintained a solid environment for employment. Caterpillar Inc.'s
2517 personnel manufacture mining and construction equipment.
Caterpillar is known throughout the world as the benchmark in their
industry Archer-Daniels-Midland employs 2900 people in producing a
variety of corn and soybean products and has come to be known as the
"Supermarket to the World".
Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc. is a leading manufacturer of automobile tires, employing 1800 people, Wagner Castings Company has earned the motto of a tradition of excellence" in the productions of ductile iron and critical castings for the automotive industry Founded in 1917, a publicly owned company, they have grown steadily to become a major employer. They currently employ 950 people with a $33 million payroll and have $150 million in sales and have just completed a $14 million modernization project.
Other leading manufacturers produce glass, auto air conditioners, control valves and pharmaceuticals, Non-manufacturing business employment has grown steadily in recent years as more jobs have been created in service and service-producing sectors. The Decatur Public School District employs 2261. Another 1550 are employed in health care at the two leading hospitals. Other leading non-manufacturing employers include Illinois Power, Norfolk Southern Railroad, Millikin University, Richland Community College and United Parcel Service.
The Decatur area maintains a strong economy and quality of life. Decatur consistently outperforms other Illinois cities such as Bloomington, Peoria, Springfield, Rockford and Joliet according to the ACCRA Cost of Living Index - routinely ranking as one of the most affordable places in Illinois to live. Citizens of the Decatur community also enjoy a high degree of confidence in the future. 1 995 marked the fourth consecutive year that Decatur metropolitan area retail sales topped $ 1 billion. According to the 1995 Survey of Buying Power, Decatur households spent an average $26,009 annually- higher than Champaign-Urbana, Peoria and Springfield.
Industrial building permits are up, as further evidence of a healthy economy. In 1 995, the City of Decatur issued $10,337,000 in industrial permits, compared with just over $2 million issued in '94.The number of permits issued for stores and other mercantile businesses and for hotels and motels also grew last year. Home sales grew 7 %. Home valuation grew by 6 %, which means that homes are a good investment as well as affordable. A robust economy together with a lower than average cost of living index make Decatur attractive to businesses as well as families.
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