By CARRIE FRILLMAN - cfrillman@daily-chronicle.com

NIU conference focuses on region's future

DeKALB — Northern Illinois University is bringing together regional leaders today and Friday to brainstorm strategies to return the area to prosperity.

"The idea is to have leaders from lots and lots of different organizations and to let them think through some of the goals that we should be working toward to create sort of a first draft for a shared vision," said Bob Gleeson, who directs the Center for Governmental Studies at NIU. "Coordinating this effort is a natural role for the public research university in the area."

The conference – coined "Returning prosperity to America's Heartland: Building a shared vision for our region's future" – is a two-day event held in part to honor the 40th anniversary of the NIU Outreach Division's Center for Governmental Studies.

Speakers from Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Utah will be featured, and numerous discussion panels will be held; all centered on improving the Midwest and northern Illinois region, Gleeson said.

"Our region is not in a far away corner," Gleeson said. "Our region is a major part of the global economy. ... We will sort of plan together, but everyone will retain the ability to work independently because we are a decentralized world, and that's a good thing."

The whole idea behind the discussions is to "get a large number of people pointed in the same direction," Gleeson added.

Attending are about 120 area leaders from businesses in both the public and private sectors, elected officials and other decision makers who make up the "fabric of the region," Gleeson said. Education, population growth, energy consumption, employment and job creation are all components for prosperity, he said.

"We can't solve all the problems in the region in one meeting," Gleeson said. "... What we can do is make a contribution by demonstrating what we often do with one organization at a time. We want to create these conversations."

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