JREDC Recognizes Industry Leaders at Appreciation Event
5 Oct 2023
News, manufacturing, awards, investors
Jacksonville, IL – Jacksonville Regional Economic Development Corporation (JREDC) Vice Chairman Kai Schnitker honored the recipients of JREDC’s two annual awards during the organization’s investor appreciation event held at Twisted Tree Music Hall in Jacksonville on Wednesday evening.
Since 1990, JREDC’s Existing Industry Committee has presented the Industry of the Year Award to a company exhibiting outstanding business development and activity that enhances regional economic viability. In recognition of two companies’ work in strengthening critical infrastructure in the Jacksonville region, the 2022 Harold Cox Industries of the Year are Cass Communications and i3 Broadband.
Long before the term COVID-19 was a household name, JREDC identified the need to develop high speed broadband as a priority in its regional plan. Cass Communications (CASSCOMM) was already building a broadband infrastructure in many rural communities in the Jacksonville region. The Virginia, Illinois-based company began installing fiber-in-the-home in 2018 and has completed 80 percent of the project with 30 communities upgraded to high-speed broadband internet service.
CASSCOMM has shown continual growth over its 125 years of service. The local business traces its roots to 1898 when a copper telephone line ran from the community of Little Indian to Virginia to connect residents in these communities with telephone service. Over the years, CASSCOMM maintained a commitment to upgrading its facilities and services, and today a strong fixed wireless broadband product provides connectivity to over 800 rural customers who previously could not connect to a fiber optic network.
i3 Broadband began conversations with Jacksonville leadership to offer broadband service to every city parcel in early 2020. It became painfully apparent as the world began mitigation efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic, that fast and reliable connectivity was imperative in this new world of remote learning and work. Today, i3 Broadband provides vital connectivity to thousands of Jacksonville homes and businesses.
In addition to providing local jobs in the community, i3 Broadband sponsors many different events throughout the year that aligns with its core values. The Peoria-based company participates in events that are impactful and change the communities it serves, including the Illinois College Esports program. i3 Broadband’s Community Cares program gives back to local organizations including churches and schools.
Also during the event, JREDC named Westermeyer Industries the recipient of the 2022 Champion Award. The award was created to recognize exemplary support for economic development in Morgan and Scott counties from an entity that does not have economic development as its primary purpose.
Westermeyer Industries has been proud to call Bluffs, Illinois, home since the beginning of their business more than 21 years ago. Being able to provide a place of employment and contribute to the local economy is a privilege that owners Gary and Theresa Westermeyer and their team do not take lightly. The “#RoadtoRebuild” as it has been dubbed on Westermeyer Industries’ social media platforms is a story of this community coming together just as much as it is another chapter in the story of Westermeyer Industries.
On August 25, 2022, Gary and Theresa watched, as over two-thirds of their facility caught fire and was destroyed resulting in the destruction of most of their equipment, inventory, offices, papers and documents, but no human loss. Gary Westermeyer describes it as their “miracle in the cornfield.” He decided that while the loss was devastating, they would not be devastated.
Approximately 80 percent of Westermeyer Industries’ revenue was previously produced in the space that was lost that day. The Westermeyers chose to rise above the catastrophe and keep moving forward, just like they have always done. Gary Westermeyer explains that it was the hardest week in the history of the company, but the employees showed up, ready to restore, reset and rebuild Westermeyer Industries better than ever before.
“We're building a new world-class facility, not just for the future of this business, but for the future of this local area.” Gary Westermeyer said at the time. “We’re creating opportunities for skilled workers and driven career seekers to build a life for themselves here among their families and friends; bringing in business from around the world right here to this little town we call home.” Currently Westermeyer Industries is in the process of replacing and expanding the 75,000 square foot building they lost with a new 110,000 square foot, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility.
Kristin Jamison, president of JREDC, outlined the successes of the organization during a short program Wednesday evening stating, “I continue to be inspired by the exciting development being completed in the Jacksonville region – small businesses are opening at a fast pace in our downtowns, new retail stores are setting up operation, major manufacturers are making plans for expansion, and collaboration with our community and industry leaders ensures that the Jacksonville region is moving forward.”
Jamison also highlighted the rehabilitation and expansion of property owners utilizing Enterprise Zone benefits, the facilitation of more than $3.5 million in local, state and federal grants to small businesses in Morgan, Scott and Cass counties through JREDC’s role as a Community Navigator and outlined continued efforts to bolster workforce in the region.
JREDC Chairman Ginny Fanning thanked JREDC staff and investors for their support and vision. “We have seen expansion in Morgan and Scott counties’ businesses and industries, and are excited about the possibilities of new ventures,” she said. She also thanked investors for their support of the organization’s successful five-year investment campaign. She concluded, “Going forward, we will strive to always be the voice of economic development and do everything we can to ensure continued growth and prosperity for our region.”
The mission of JREDC is to create, expand, recruit and retain job opportunities for Morgan and Scott counties. The investor-based group traces its beginnings to 1964 when the Jacksonville Area Industrial Corporation was formed with the objective of creating jobs by acquiring new industries and assisting the growth of existing industries.