People Are Fleeing Illinois County

People Are Fleeing Illinois County

( – US Census Bureau redistricting data released this month show that more than half the nation’s counties experienced a population decrease in the last 10 years. However, none of them lost a higher percentage than Illinois’ Alexander County.

Located next to the merger of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, Alexander County lost roughly 3,000 of its residences, or about 36.4%, reducing its population to 5,240.

The small town of Cairo still serves as the county seat, yet it’s all but abandoned now. The town once served as an important port town when the nation’s steamboat industry still thrived. Railroads and later interstate highways reduced the town’s business district to boarded-up, crumbling buildings in recent decades.

Local officials attempted to revive the town using a series of historic district initiatives, but most failed, except for a few remaining Victorian manors and the local public library.

However, there could be hope for the nation’s fastest dwindling county. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) recently backed a plan to allocate roughly $40 million in taxpayer funds for a new river terminal and other port improvements. The project is expected to create about 500 union jobs in late 2022 or early 2023.

The future remains uncertain for Alexander County, but perhaps the project can renew the local economy and inflate the area’s population for the first time in decades.

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