Engineering Building on SIU Carbondale campus

September 27, 2022

SIU workshop to address economic prospects beyond coal

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Representatives from federal agencies, along with state officials, will visit Southern Illinois University Carbondale on Thursday to announce a program and hold a free, daylong workshop, both aimed at finding economic opportunity amidst the decline of coal-related industries in the region.

The Interagency Working Group (IWG) on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization will conduct in-depth discussions on the effort to revitalize energy communities within the Illinois Basin. The workshop, set for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29, at the SIU Student Center, will engage community leaders and identify opportunities for regional economic diversification and growth in the Illinois Basin in response to coal mine and power plant closures.

Registration is required to attend, as space is limited. About 180 are registered as of Monday afternoon, including regional mayors, economic development officers, city managers and business leaders. It is open to anyone generally concerned with supporting and sustaining the region. 

Prior to the workshop, officials also will announce a federal program providing on-the-ground technical assistance and coordination to support energy communities and workers in the Illinois Basin region.

The group hopes to convene a broad cross-section of relevant stakeholders, including regional, state and municipal officials, legislators, economic development leaders and representatives from the private sector, labor, philanthropy, academia, nongovernmental organizations and more.

The Illinois Basin is one of the top six regions in the country identified as most vulnerable to further declines in coal-related employment, said Ken Anderson, director of SIU’s Advanced Energy Institute, adding that it’s part of the university’s mission to support the region as it promotes and improves environmental sustainability.

“The meeting is to open lines of communication between our region and more than a dozen federal agencies that have been tasked with ensuring that communities affected by the ongoing energy transition receive the support they need and deserve,” Anderson said. “Change is hard, but it also brings opportunity. We want to bring together the right people and the right groups to ensure that Southern Illinois is positioned to take advantage of the opportunities that are currently available through the federal government, so that we can position ourselves for the brightest possible future.”