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Five questions with ... Gillum Ferguson of Harrisburg

  • Gillum Ferguson

    Gillum Ferguson

 
By Travis DeNeal tdeneal@dailyregister.com
updated: 3/2/2019 1:45 PM

Q. Will raising the minimum wage help southern Illinois?

Ferguson: Some people seem to believe that we can attract employers to this depressed area, or retain the few we still have, by making it more expensive to do business here. We're about to find out whether they're right.

Q. What do you see as our region's most significant economic issue?

Ferguson: The out-migration of young people who must move away to find work raises serious questions about what our region will be like in 20 years. Will enough people of working age remain here that southern Illinois can survive as an economically viable community?

Q. Would a progressive tax (which will require state constitutional amendment) work or be beneficial?

Ferguson: A lot of people targeted by this tax proposal, the sort of people who create jobs and provide leadership in the community, are now talking about taking their money and their talents to states which are less hostile to success. We'll find out whether they mean it.

Could Illinois work with the federal government to promote tourism to the Shawnee National Forest?

Ferguson: The Shawnee National Forest is the one major economic engine the region has. Before talking about what the state or federal government can do, however, we should be asking ourselves whether we in our local community can't do more to make it attractive by cutting out the litter and graffiti. Do tourists really want to drive here from out of state to look at our discarded beer bottles?

Q. The Shawnee National Forest has many wonderful spots, but do you have a favorite?

Ferguson: For simple natural beauty, I'd pick Bell Smith Springs. Unfortunately too many of our people seem to regard it as a convenient trash dump. Last year, in two weeks hiking and camping in the national parks of Colorado, I saw no litter. Zero. Is there something in our local culture that makes that impossible to achieve here?