Madison and St. Clair counties are two of three counties with the worst job loss rate from June 2011 to June 2012. In the nation.
That should set off alarm bells, especially because Illinois has an anti-business reputation with its high-cost workers' comp system and high taxes and fees.
However, we're told not to sweat it, that it's a blip on the screen, the result of two big construction projects concluding.
If the metro-east had hearty employment otherwise, we might agree. But St. Clair County had a 9 percent unemployment rate in November and Madison County 8.2 percent. That's despite millions of dollars in tax increment financing given as incentives to various businesses, ongoing tax-funded construction projects like the new Mississippi River bridge, and the jobs afforded by Scott Air Force Base, the fourth largest employer in the St. Louis region.
Instead of trying to explain why we shouldn't be concerned about scary numbers, or press conferences touting a few jobs here and there being added, we want to see a united regional effort to increase employment -- not just jobs supported by tax dollars, but jobs created by private industry.
Numerous groups and organizations already exist with the mission of economic development, but they are all pulling in different, often parochial directions; there is no single plan of action.
Our political and civic leaders worked together and made a great case for our region during the last rounds of military base closings. We need something of that level with the sole focus of bringing new private industry jobs to the region.