With every member of the BARBERMURPHY team having roots in communities across the southern part of the state, we are intimately familiar with all the reasons why it’s a great place to live, work, play and invest.
Southern Illinois has an approximate population of 1.2 million people. The two higher density areas are Metro East (pop. 700,000+), which is the partly industrialized Illinois portion of the St. Louis metropolitan area, and the Carbondale/Marion area, which is home to roughly 123,000 residents. Whether a company is looking to expand in one these populous areas or any of the smaller, more rural communities outside of them, collaborative, cooperative city officials are ready to roll out the welcome mat.
Industrial Roots that Keep Growing
As the bi-state St. Louis region enjoys record-setting industrial real estate activity, Southern Illinois is playing a key role. The Metro East area has a solid industrial foundation as home to operations for U.S. Steel, Olin Brass, refineries and more. Over the past 20 years, it also has emerged as a prime location for successful distribution centers for household brands such as Dial, Hershey and Procter & Gamble, to name just a few.
Amazon now has a huge presence here, and World Wide Technology’s signing of a two-million-square-foot lease in Edwardsville, Ill., represents the St. Louis region’s largest-ever industrial lease by square foot.
Heading further south in the state, a transformation is underway as the region moves from being a leading coal producer to become an up-and-coming, strategic location for logistics and automotive suppliers. One example is Aisin Group — a multinational Japanese OEM auto parts manufacturer in Marion, Ill., which has grown from an initial 35 employees in 2003 to approximately 1,500 employees today.
Exceptional Infrastructure and Affordable/Available Land
A variety of factors are driving the growth in this sector, but abundant, affordable land and excellent infrastructure are key contributors. As companies choose to locate or grow in Southern Illinois, not only is the pricing of the land highly competitive, but the costs to develop it are lower than in other metro areas. That holds true for all types of developments, from industrial to office to retail.
Located in the center of America’s freight network, the Metro East is part of a bi-state metro area that is home to the nation’s third-largest inland port, with positioning at the crossroads of six Class I railroads and strategic access to four national interstates, international passenger and cargo airports, and significant pipelines.
The riverbanks along the stretch of Mississippi River that border Southern Illinois are part of what is becoming known as the Ag Coast of America, because it delivers the highest level of grain barge handling capacity anywhere along the Mighty Mississippi.
Interstates 57 and 24 provide easy access to the southern reaches of the state, with major interchanges located in Marion and Mount Vernon creating hubs for manufacturers and businesses and helping the rest of Southern Illinois to also gain traction as a transportation, distribution and logistics nexus.
Three of the country’s Class I railroads — operated by BNSF, CN, and Union Pacific — pass through the southern portion of the state, serving as critical connections to the entire country. Progressive Rail and the Evansville Western Railway operate Class II railroads that also add to the region’s rail capabilities. Southern Illinois’ commercial and cargo air service from Marion and private airports in several other communities provide various options for businesses with remote operations, customers and suppliers.
Excellent Educational Institutions and Job-Ready Workforce
Educational opportunities for all levels of learning abound throughout the southern part of the state. While the Southern Illinois University Campuses in Carbondale and Edwardsville may both be top of mind, various other institutions make significant contributions to the region’s higher education offerings. Those include McKendree University in Lebanon and Lindenwood University in Belleville, plus a strong network of community colleges, including Lewis & Clark, Greenville, Kaskaskia, Southwestern Illinois and John A. Logan.
Collectively, these educational facilities ensure that Southern Illinois is home to a well-educated, highly-trained, and skilled workforce. Whether you’re looking for individuals with higher education degrees, those privy to the newest advancements in technical fields and trades, or people with extensive experience in manufacturing, logistics and natural resource mining, you’ll find a job ready workforce here.
Thanks to the quality of the workforce, major employers in the region have been able to find the talent they need to fill their jobs, even as they grow. Some of the largest employers range from Scott Air Force Base, U.S. Steel and Amazon, to the region’s educational institutions and expanding healthcare sector, to growing firms, such as Aisin Group, Continental Tire, Walgreens Distribution Center and FRAM Laboratories.
Quality of Life
Quality of life can be measured in multiple ways, but in Southern Illinois, some of the key ingredients include a low cost of living, exceptional healthcare services and unmatched recreational offerings.
The average cost of living is significantly lower than in bigger metropolitan cities, and the median home value in Southern Illinois is also a bargain. High-quality housing options can be found in every community, and homebuyers can get a lot of house for their money and take advantage of the affordable acreage, whether seeking to buy in a mature neighborhood or build their dream home.
The region boasts numerous top quality medical institutions that serve the entire Southern Illinois footprint, while also being home to the rapidly growing Medical Mile along I-64, where hundreds of millions of dollars have recently been invested in opening up brand new, state-of-the-art hospitals and medical facilities.
Recreational assets in Southern Illinois run the gamut and are guaranteed to impress. A large portion of deep Southern Illinois falls in Shawnee National Forest, which lies between the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. More than 50 wineries are sprinkled throughout Southern Illinois, which also boasts two wine trails and various bike trails, multiple lakes, many orchards, great breweries and distilleries, and numerous historic venues.
Shopping and dining alternatives are abundant. And with proximity to St. Louis, Southern Illinois also offers convenient access to a host of additional amenities, from Cardinals Baseball or Blues Hockey, to the Gateway Arch National Park and Forest Park, to the Fabulous Fox Theater and St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.