For a great part of the past month, members of the SVM newsroom have been working on a special section that was published in today's newspaper. It's our Directions 2014 edition titled "Vision 2030: A look at the Sauk Valley of the future."
We sometimes do story counts to make sure reporters are being as productive as they should be. That's rarely a problem here, especially with the really strong group of reporters we have now.
Monday, I did a story count for all of the work reporters did for our Vision 2030 section. It was the equivalent of 1.5 weeks of work for the five reporters. Wow!
And it wasn't just the volume of the work – there were plenty of stories we couldn't fit in the section and placed instead in the daily editions for the past few days – that was impressive. If you've had a chance to read the section, you know there's are a lot of interesting thoughts about what the future might hold for the region.
Here is my list of some of the interesting nuggets about the Sauk Valley and its future that I gleaned from the Vision 2030 stories and guest opinions we published, in no particular order:
• While 9,500 unemployed residents were actively looking for work in the region, an additional 10,000 workers were designated as "underemployed."
This, according to a 2012 study of Whiteside, Lee, Ogle, Carroll and Stephenson counties. We often focus on the number and percentages of people who are unemployed. The same kind of attention probably should be given to those who are underemployed – in jobs not that don't match their wage or skill levels.
• For future job seekers, "Specialization will be replaced with versatility, and the educational and job training institutions need to start instilling that now."
That opinion was expressed by reporter Matt Mencarini, in answer to the question, "What do you think will be of local importance regarding employment between now and 2030?" Matt made his point by saying, "In journalism, the more you can do, the more valuable you are." We all should be telling our kids that.
• Jobs that once didn't require much schooling do now.
That from Frantz Manufacturing President and COO John Gvozdjak. He was making the point that robotics, technology and computerization have such a large role in today's factory that "your employees need to be skilled to be able to manage that, to be able to operate that."
"The skills for manufacturing in general have been scarce because a lot of young people have abandoned considering manufacturing as a long-term career," Gvozdjak said.
Certainly something to consider in a region that will continue to count on manufacturing to help drive its economy.
• Farmers who can adapt and tune out the information that isn't important will likely be successful in the future.
That from Scott Stoller, a grain merchandiser for Ag Perspective, based in Dixon. While the abundance of new technology has been a boon for farmers, information overload – which Stoller calls "noise" – also poses a problem. I find that interesting.
• In 2013, Rock Falls had no single-family housing starts whatsoever.
No statistic provides better evidence of how stressed the local housing market has been. The stats for Sterling aren't much better.
• Local projections have annual ridership for the Lee-Ogle public transportation system at 160,000 in 2030, and at 123,179 in Whiteside County.
That's far more than I would have imagined.
• According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, Illinois will need to spend $17.5 billion over the next 20 years to bring sewer treatment plants up to snuff, and $15 billion to improve drinking water.
I wonder where that money will come from?
• By 2030, all of our local schools will certainly be air conditioned, right?
This from Opinion Page Editor Jim Dunn in the "What Do We Think" section about changes in education. I know it's expensive to keep a school cool, but it seems ridiculous to me that, in 2014 classes, have to be canceled when it gets too hot.
• Tad Everett, superintendent of the Sterling schools, expects traditional textbooks will be phased out in the next 5 to 10 years.
Replaced, of course, by electronic textbooks.
• In 2030, you'll no longer need to see a doctor for check-ups or complaints. Only when computer systems are unable to diagnose you will you see a doctor in person.
This is among the many theories written by KSB Hospital President and CEO Dave Schreiner in what I found to be a fascinating column about health care. It's on page D8 of the special section, if you haven't read it.
• Sterling High School Principal Jason Austin said it's reasonable to assume that by the year 2030, about 35 percent of students there will be Hispanic.
Given that the percentage already is about 31 percent, and it was about 19 percent in 2008, I'd say that number might end up being greater.
• In 2008, Sterling saw 23 percent of its property tax levy go to pensions. This year that number has grown to 40 percent of the levy.
I know that rising pension costs receive a lot of attention in the media. It should be given even more.