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10 things to watch in Southwestern Illinois (and beyond) for 2016

    There’s an interesting paradigm in life that suggests everything in the past makes us who we are today. That should make 2016 an interesting year in Southwestern Illinois.
grubaugh 400x554    There is also a paradigm that suggests we can’t escape the world around us.
    Here’s my take on 10 things we’ll be talking about this year, all with significant ramifications for our region.
    No. 1. The presidential election. The Republicans can’t muster any kind of field that makes sense. Hillary Rodham Clinton as president may rankle some, but you better prepare yourself: It’s hers for the asking.
    No. 2. Terrorism and our national fear. Yes, let’s worry about it, but let’s not obsess. Remember the Communist black list of the 1950s? And the Japanese American internments of the 1940s? Dour periods of our history. Let’s not repeat them by letting fear of the unknown override our American values.
    No. 3. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. As dull as the name sounds, the operation has the potential to be a blockbuster economic catalyst if we can convince the federal government to move it from St. Louis to St. Clair County. Just think: 3,000-plus jobs and no good reason not to move them next door to Scott Air Force Base. I mean, besides political ones.
    No. 4. State government. Recent history suggests that it really doesn’t matter who we elect, things just don’t get done in Springfield. Look for more things not changing in 2016.
    No. 5. Drones. I’m waiting for the first air catastrophe now that millions of civilians have their hands on their new Christmas toys. Remember common sense and the law: Keep them less than 400 feet and away from the airport.
    No. 6. The economy, America. When I look at my stocks and see the third-longest bull market in our nation’s history, I think things are on the upswing. But then I read that 20 percent of Americans don’t have a savings account. Young people are finding it harder than ever to achieve their dreams, and we’re not doing enough to help them.
    No. 7. The economy, world. The global economy is growing, which is a good thing. But that rate of growth is slowing because of China, which faces all kinds of ills. That worry is going to trickle down to investments in emerging markets, which is where most of our stock money has gone in recent years. The big question is whether the European economies can rebound and take up some of the slack.
    No. 8. The economy, local. While new fields are emerging daily, the industries that built America are being competitively socked by cheaper, and often unfair imports. Case in point: U.S. Steel in Granite City. The longer this operation stays idle, the tougher it will be to get it back running, regardless of the investments the company has made in recent years. This year is pivotal for one of our largest employers.
    No. 9. Health care. All signs point to the greatest changes we’ve ever seen in health insurance — mergers, treatment, coverage, costs. The Affordable Care Act is taking permanent root, and where it takes us nobody knows for sure. And how we pay for it, no one is sure.
    10. Social media. It may be the ruination of spelling and civility and the power behind Donald Trump, but it’s also an unending means for doing good and staying in touch. I see it as the most significant communication tool in the world — and only getting more important with time.
    Here’s to a prosperous, calm 2016!
    Dennis Grubaugh is editor and partner of the Illinois Business Journal. He can be reached at or (618) 977-6865.

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