Why Our Community Needs To Grow
While we don't yet know the results of the 2010 census, we do know that Pekin's population has not changed significantly in the past 40 years. Some people are happy with that. They don't want our community to grow and they prefer we remain a small town. However, Pekin is not a small town. We are the second largest city in the largest downstate metropolitan market.
By definition, if you're not growing you are either stagnant or declining and those can't be viewed as positive attributes for our community. If we look around our community with a critical eye, we can see how our lack of residential growth has been a contributing factor to the negative changes.
How does residential growth help a community? There are several economic benefits, including:
Commercial Development - An increase in residents means increased demand for retail, service, entertainment and recreation. As a result, a larger quantity and variety of businesses are attracted to the community to meet that demand. Additional commercial development means more jobs (both construction and staffing). And, a larger quantity and variety of commercial establishments will draw more shoppers to the community, bringing in outside sales tax dollars.
Housing Growth - An increase in residents means an increase in housing demand, which leads to improved stability of home values. It also translates into more jobs as new home construction and remodeling activity increases.
Increased Tax Revenue - Residential growth allows the cost of our community's infrastructure to be spread over more people. Increased tax revenues (sales tax, motor fuel tax, property tax, federal taxes allocated per capita, etc.) can be used by our school boards, park districts and municipalities to maintain our educational and recreational facilities, our streets and sewers, and provide services like police and fire protection.
New residents also bring new ideas, new cultures, new perspectives and more volunteers to serve and build our community organizations.
As a community, I do not believe we should be satisfied with "holding our own" or "maintaining the status quo." We have many attributes that make our community a great place to live. We need to develop and nurture those attributes, improve our deficiencies, and - for the long-term heath of our community - attract new residents.