Community Leadership and Vision Pay Off for Blue Mound, Illinois
Subsequent to the completion of a comprehensive community and economic development plan in the early 1980s, local leaders in Blue Mound, Illinois (pop. 1,161) faced a dilemma. The plan presented an overwhelming set of recommendations for improving the community. How could the village defy countywide population declines and economic hardships and still achieve all of the recommended objectives? The answer came in the form of unprecedented community support for a vision of the future, a shared strategy for improving the economy, and widespread acceptance that the village expected to achieve success with the help of people, not just the taxpayers' money. Blue Mound's small business development strategies illustrated how a small town, even during difficult times, could combine a powerful vision with leadership, civic participation, and partnerships with public- and private-sector agencies to expand the local economy and preserve a rural way of life.
Of all the recommendations in Blue Mound's 200-page comprehensive plan, local leaders decided to first focus on revitalizing downtown with an aggressive approach to small business development. Within eight years, community leaders successfully attracted 20 new businesses and revolutionized downtown's role as a commercial hub for the area. Some of the new businesses were created with local development corporations that sold shares to Blue Mound residents. Other businesses, such as a new dentist's office, video store, small motor repair, and a clothing alteration shop were borne out of other innovative strategies. Local enthusiasm for community entrepreneurship even impacted public services. Blue Mound's police department eventually became a