Study Shows Life is Good in Jackson, Williamson Counties

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By Fanna Haile-Selassie
By Jared Roberts

WSIL -- A new study is evaluating how people in Jackson and Williamson Counties feel about their quality of life. Officials with the Paul Simon Institute thought the results could help the two most populous counties in our area. They're encouraging city and county boards to use the results to make life even better for southern Illinois.

In the last few years, as southern Illinois made its way out of recession, there has been a lot to complain about.
 
"There's a lot of kids who are from this area who have to leave the area because they aren't getting jobs," says Marion Resident Beverley Yackey.
 
Years of budget cuts have slashed many jobs, and our region has been slow to bounce back. But the new study shows that residents are looking on the bright side.
 
"It's just a good place, I think, to raise a family or to retire here. We're at that age and so it's just a good place to be," says Brenda Epps, another Marion resident.
 
David Yepsen with the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute says, "You can be comfortable yourself and be worried about the bad economy. You can have a nice lifestyle here, but still not be fully employed."
 
Yepsen says of nearly 600 people surveyed, two-thirds said life is good. But there are still some concerns. Crime rates are a high priority, with 18 percent of Williamson county residents saying they feel less safe in their homes and 13 percent in Jackson County.
 
Yackey says, "We seem to have some increase in the activity of gangs, which is of prime importance to me because I have grandchildren."
 
The economy is the top priority, though.
 
"There's several small businesses that I'm sure would like to start in this area, but they need some help. And our government is helping everybody else, I think they could help them," says Tim Epps.
     
Less than 15 percent of those polled say their local business conditions are better off than a year ago, and only 7 percent say their county is a good place to work. But in the end, that's not enough to make them move.
 
"I was surprised, because people are in a much better mood than I thought that they would be," says Yepsen. "I mean we hear about all the complaining, look at all our problems, and yet if you take a step back, as this survey does, and take a look at the big picture, life is pretty good in southern Illinois."
 
A few other concerns were water quality, lack of high speed internet access, and the amount of litter on area streets. But residents said they had confidence in their public school system, as well as their municipal leaders.
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