CRAWFORD COUNTY, Ill. (WTWO/WAWV) — When a housing study revealed that Crawford County was in need of 1,000 homes, instead of being overwhelmed leaders and community members have stepped up to make that happen.

“This is the first story of what we hope will be the rest of the story,” Teresa Fielder, Mayor of the Village of Oblong said.

That story, the first home being built on 33 acres of property the village of Oblong purchased and is working to put into a TIF (Tax, Increment, Financing) district.

“Our communities have really joined together creating the infrastructure that’s needed for new housing,” Resa Shaner, Executive Director of Crawford County Development said. “We have Robinson and Oblong who are already actively working on TIFF districts and enterprise zones. Our County is working on an enterprise zone for all of the villages.”

Fielder said leaders were beyond surprised at how much housing was really needed.

“Once that housing study came out, that really got us in motion to know that we are on the right path,” Fielder said.

That path is to build 200 new residential units before 2027 in Crawford County.

“About 20% of our employees travel here every day and we want more people to live with their families in Crawford County,” Shaner said.

“People can come here and enjoy small town like we enjoy it,” Fielder added.

Crawford County is no stranger to the industry, home to three Fortune 500 companies, and continues to grow through a recent expansion at Hershey.

“When Hershey came to us and said, ‘we’re going to be adding 200 jobs our community and our leadership across all of the villages and cities realized this is something that we cannot do on our own.’ It’s going to be a community-wide lift and it’s exciting to me to see that happening every day and the dots being connected now to make that work, to support our business and industry,” Shaner said.

Shaner said lots in Oblong are available for purchase. Beginning Friday, September 1 Robinson lots will be available for $5,000.

“The concept here in Crawford County is, together we are stronger. So, we are building houses together and that is the infrastructure piece that makes us better to help our industries,” Shaner said.

On Thursday, August 31, at 10:30 AM central time, the Business Navigator Alliance of South Central and Southeastern Illinois will host a free webinar. It will focus on Crawford County and the effort to meet increased housing needs. Attendees will hear from several invested panelists, including both Fielder and Shaner, and will learn about the County’s recent planning analysis. As well as the launch of collaborations between local government and private industry. To join the webinar, click here.

Photo Courtesy: Crawford County Development Association