Hometown Investment: How Rabbi Rob Thomas is Helping Reshape Jacksonville’s Future

Hometown Investment: How Rabbi Rob Thomas is Helping Reshape Jacksonville’s Future Main Photo

21 Mar 2024

It’s no secret that Jacksonville, IL, has seen incredible revitalization and growth in the last several years. The affordability of the region, access to good schools, a growing and thriving workforce, and vibrant art, shopping and dining scenes have put us on the map to young professionals looking for a place to settle in. The community has captured the hearts of investors, entrepreneurs, natives and newcomers alike. And for one particular native, returning just made sense.

Rabbi Rob Thomas Returns to Jacksonville

After years of military service, entrepreneurship, and global living and travels, 1985 Jacksonville High School graduate Rabbi Rob Thomas returned to his hometown. Returning was not part of the plan. But a health scare in the family brought him and his wife back for frequent visits.

“We would spend one week a month here hanging out with my dad, helping him with whatever he needed, and just getting time with him,” Rabbi Thomas said. “I was driving my wife around town, showing her all the places where I had fun as a kid. And I’m having this thought…but I’m not going to say it. My wife, a Chicago girl, born and raised says, ‘Should we buy a home here?’”

“A Wonderful Cauldron of Entrepreneurship”

Rabbi Thomas and his wife were captivated by the community’s evolution and decided to invest in it by purchasing a home. Then, as the couple settled in, Rabbi Thomas noticed the growing scene at the town’s square, where boutiques and unique businesses were flourishing. “I was blown away. That’s when I really realized this town had way more to offer than it did when I was a kid, and that it was roaring back.”

The couple’s personal commitment soon turned into a larger economic engagement. The Thomases invested in multiple development projects, notably in the acquisition and renovation of iconic buildings around the square. “It’s the community gathering spot. It’s the one spot everyone knows and everyone loves. A vibrant downtown with its lovely architecture really levels up the town,” said Rabbi Thomas. With his latest project, the former Andre & Andre Furniture building, he has embraced the blending of residential and commercial spaces to create a dynamic hub for young professionals.

“If I can bring young professionals here to live and work on this square, then we can level up to the benefit of the entire town,” he said. “They’re going to live on the square. They’re going to see the gaps in the market. And they’re going to start new businesses in this wonderful cauldron of entrepreneurship.”

Investing in Jacksonville’s Future

The Thomas’ decision to invest in Jacksonville reflects a broader trend. The City of Jacksonville’s supportiveness of entrepreneurs, combined with the active involvement of community organizations, like the Jacksonville Regional Economic Development Corporation (JREDC), the Chamber of Commerce and Jacksonville Main Street, has created an environment that allows businesses to open and thrive. “There are so many organizations that work so well together to support the businessperson here,” said Rabbi Thomas. “Everyone here wants you to win. It’s a big differentiator.”

As the economic landscape of Jacksonville continues to evolve, it stands as a testament to the power of community, the potential for collaboration and the importance of maintaining a personal connection to your roots. The town's progress serves as an inspiring example for other communities that are striving for economic revitalization, proving that with a collective vision and a supportive network, any place can reimagine itself and thrive.

Find Yourself in Jacksonville

Rabbi Thomas’ investment in our community is just one example of the entrepreneurs and investors choosing to build their businesses in Jacksonville. Personal connections and a deep rooted belief in the town’s potential continues to inspire vision and revitalization, reshaping the local economy and the community.

So if you ever find yourself in Jacksonville, take a moment to take in the transformation. You'll find a community eager to welcome you, show you around and share the best it has to offer, without a single bad place to eat — just as Rabbi Thomas promises.

Jacksonville Regional Economic Development Corporation (JREDC) is Eager to Assist

JREDC is your time-saving connection to resources to accelerate your project by providing the facts and figures businesses need: statistical data, general community data, topic-specific information and comparative data. Email JREDC or phone 217.479.4627 for specific information on available buildings and sites, financing and incentives, labor market information, tax information, demographics, traffic counts, retail sales data, economic indicators and trends and zoning information.

JREDC’s Employment Opportunity page is a no-cost resource analytically proven to be a valuable “one-stop-shop” benefiting local employers and job seekers alike.

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