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Galesburg Residents React to National Media Attention

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President Obama's upcoming trip to Galesburg Wednesday has put the city in the national spotlight. Countless media outlets have written and posted stories about the visit – some characterizing the city as a "struggling Illinois town." 

Many Galesburg residents told us Monday they find that characterization to be unfair. 

"It's very unfair," resident Walter Schultz said. "The town is going through some changes, but the nation is going through some changes. And that has to deal with the way the world economy is changing."

Meanwhile, the Galesburg Regional Economic Development Association said the characterization isn't necessarily unfair, but misleading.

"It just doesn't paint the entire picture," GREDA President Leo Dion said. "In a lot of ways, yes, there are things about Galesburg that are struggling." 

For example - the city's poverty rate has been increasing during recent years, Dion said. He said one measurement the city uses for that is free and reduced lunch in its schools. Dion said about 60 percent of students currently receive that.

And according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, employment has been decreasing over the years and the city's per capita personal income sits about $10,000 below the state's.

But Dion said there's more to Galesburg than that.

"I think what we need to do is seize the opportunities we have here," the GREDA president said. "We have a couple great colleges in the area - Knox College, Monmouth College, a great community college. Education is one of the things we need to be focusing on." 

Former city manager Gary Goddard said the city is focusing on the right things and moving forward.

"The railroad, when I arrived in Galesburg, only employed about 700 people," Goddard said. "Now it employs well over a thousand."

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