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Solar Eclipse is Big Business for Illinois

Courtesy of Mish.

People from worldwide are converging on Southern Illinois on Monday to witness a total eclipse of the sun. I will be among that crowd.

We booked our hotel late, as in a couple months ago. The closest, in fact, the only room we could find was at a Best Western in Paducah, Kentucky, for nearly $400 a night.

Every hotel in Southern Illinois was booked solid. Carbondale, Illinois, home of Southern Illinois University is one of the big beneficiaries.



The Wall Street Journal reports Carbondale Plans to Make Hay While Sun Doesn’t Shine.

This roughly 25,000-person college town in southern Illinois will become shrouded in total darkness for as long as two minutes and 40 seconds during Monday’s solar eclipse, longer than almost any other location in the country.

But for Carbondale city administrators who have been preparing for the phenomenon since last summer, the eclipse is as much an opportunity to boost the city’s faltering university-based economy as it is a chance to view a cosmic light show.

Carbondale’s population is expected to double Monday as astronomers, NASA scientists, curiosity-seekers, students of all ages and international media trek here for an event that could generate $8 million in local economic activity, according to city estimates. Carbondale businesses generate about $600 million annually in economic activity, according to the city.

The town’s moment in the blocked-out sun couldn’t come at a better time.

Southern Illinois University Carbondale, the city’s largest employer, has seen funding delays in recent years as a result of a record-breaking state budget stalemate in Springfield.

Carbondale normally relies on each student to generate $10,000 annually in local economic activity, said Mayor John “Mike” Henry, but dwindling student enrollment has cost the city about $50 million a year. Drugs and crime in pockets of the community have stretched local police and social services.

“Right at the beginning, we said, ‘We cannot fail at this,’” Mr. Henry said. “We’re going to overplan. We’re going to overspend. We’re going to do everything possible so that every single person has the best experience that they can have.”

Mr. Henry expedited the first phase of an expansive downtown-revitalization effort, spending about $1.75 million to tear up sidewalks, unify the streetscape, update public parking and improve street lighting.

Best Experience

In an effort to produce the “best experience” for everyone I can tell you the police were out en masse. I have never seen so many Illinois state troopers in my entire life.

In one 20 mile stretch on I-24 between the I-57/I-24 junction and Paducah, we saw seven unmarked cars with drivers pulled over. How many cars still in hiding is unknown.

This is big business for sure. Police and hotels shared the wealth. What effect this has on future Illinois tourism remains to be seen. But like world fairs and Olympics, I expect the benefits to be muted, if not negative, in relation to the amount of money spent in preparation.

Mish Setup


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