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Image Doesn’t Match Reality

Illinois has had an image problem for most of the 21st Century. In the past 20 years, many have forgotten that for generations, Illinois was recognized as an economic engine for the country; a research and education center; a destination for travelers; and a place millions chose to call home.

Illinois still has it all - a vast transportation network, manufacturing prowess, an expansive post-secondary education system, and endless entertainment and recreation opportunities. Our entrepreneurs brought the world Internet browsers, the steel plow, plasma video screens, modern dentistry and the Ferris Wheel, and we continue to innovate. In 2020, ten Illinois-based companies were named on the Forbes' Fortune 100 list while 20 were recognized as among the most admired in the world.


​And yet, today, we struggle to remember or recognize the successes and instead dwell on the negatives.




Two Efforts: One Objective

The Great Recession of 2008 and the federal conviction of Illinois’ sitting Governor in 2010 ignited Janet Mathis, Craig Coil and a few other economic development professionals from across the state to develop a positivity campaign called Grow Illinois. The campaign enjoyed some success but, lacking full time staff, stalled.

​Meanwhile, author and newspaper columnist Jim Nowlan began writing about challenges happening in downstate Illinois, suggesting that an effort be started to reinvigorate Illinoisans to feel good about the entire state again. With no structure, Downstate Matters never materialized.

In late 2018, realizing the stakes were too high to do nothing, Coil, Mathis, Nowlan and a fourth founding board member, David Dyer started the formation of ELEVATE ILLINOIS.

Stronger Together

ELEVATE ILLINOIS recognizes that Illinois is at its best when the whole state is strengthened and that Illinois citizens have much more in common than what divides them. From Rockford to Cairo, Quincy to Danville, Peoria to Carbondale - a strong vibrant Illinois requires unity and a renewed focus on what is good in the state. Ultimately, the downstate communities need Chicago and the suburbs while Chicago and the suburbs need downstate communities.

​ELEVATE ILLINOIS was formed on this premise and currently operates as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The organization’s mission is to educate and unite the 95 Illinois counties which lie outside of the Chicago Metropolitan Planning area while enhancing the state of Illinois as a whole.

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