The newly formed Land of Lincoln Economic Development Corporation (LLEDC) has selected Eric Berglund as their first CEO. His selection was announced at a press conference held on July 16 at Innovate Springfield.
In introducing Berglund, Hy Bunn, who serves as chair of the LLEDC board, said, “I think it’s fitting we’re meeting in Innovate Springfield, because innovation is what this is all about.”
In explaining his decision to accept the position, Berglund said he was optimistic about leading the newly formed organization.
“All the fundamentals are in place. We have some very committed folks involved, and we’ve got the right leadership,” he said. “It’s a rare thing these days to find a public/private partnership where the business community steps forward.”
Berglund was most recently employed by the Southwest Florida Economic Development Alliance in Ft. Myers, Florida. In 2015, he was recruited to lead a newly formed regional economic development organization that represented five counties with a combined population of 1.3 million. He also previously served as president and CEO of Upstate Colorado Economic Development in Greeley, Colorado near Denver.
While the initial creation of the LLEDC was not without controversy, the Springfield City Council ultimately approved $250,000 in funding for the group, half the amount that Sangamon County contributed and requested in matching funds from the city. (“Funds approved for economic development,” Illinois Times, February 21, 2018.)
At the press conference, Mayor Jim Langfelder indicated the city and county would work collaboratively with the LLEDC.
“We’re going to work together as a region to make things happen,” he said. “We’re in a global economy now….it’s all about growing jobs; that’s what we’re going to focus on.”
Andy Van Meter, chair of the Sangamon County board and a board member for the LLEDC, noted that Berglund’s selection was unanimous.
“This isn’t going to be just the same old, same old way of doing things. The organization intends to send a message that we’re looking for a new effort and a new culture,” Van Meter said.
Berglund noted that while many communities rely on incentives to attract new businesses to the area, traditional incentives alone aren’t sufficient.
“Incentives will help a company make a decision, but it won’t make a bad location good,” he explained.
Asked about his decision to relocate from Florida to Illinois and the potential political challenges of doing business in our state, Berglund struck an optimistic tone. “We have a great location here. From the outside looking in, I’m not sure Illinois is in as bad of shape as people here think it is.”