Quinn announces emergency response center

By Tyler Davis

Gov. Pat Quinn announced Monday Illinois will invest $4.5 million to further develop the Southern Illinois Airport property, which will include the construction of an emergency response center.

The investment comes as part of Quinn’s “Illinois Jobs Now!”, a $31 billion program created to support more than 439,000 Illinois jobs by 2015, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

Emergency services relating to natural disasters, disease outbreaks and more will be housed in the center, which will be located near the airport hangar. It will consolidate Jackson County’s Red Cross and National Guard units as well as Southern Illinois Healthcare’s Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) unit.


Quinn said the airport’s position in southern Illinois was instrumental in the approval of the funds. When choosing a location for the center, Quinn said natural disasters such as the 2012 Harrisburg tornado, the 2012 derecho and yearly ice storms were considered.

“In all of these occasions in five years there have been serious emergencies that are natural disasters,” he said. “We want to be able to respond to these disasters as quickly, as comprehensively as possible whatever the case might be.”

The project began after the Southern Illinois Airport Authority hired a consulting agency to research possible land use and development of the airport.

Elaine Vitello, an SIAA member and former dean of the College of Applied Sciences and Arts, said the group makes decisions concerning the airport, then directs the airport manager to fulfill those suggestions.

President Randy Dunn said the construction of the center and subsequent construction efforts, such as road alteration and creation, will not only provide the region with short-term jobs, but career opportunities for students as well.

“Obviously we increase opportunities for public safety for all of our communities throughout southern Illinois while at the same time bringing jobs in this area,” he said. “It’s not going to be jobs just in the construction phase but in all of the future operations as well. We want to keep some of our graduates in southern Illinois.”

Dunn said one of the biggest motivations for the development of the airport is the intergration of the region’s business interests with the university’s.


“As we look to the next chapter of work at the university, we are going to be looking for partnerships that benefit, grow and nurture this region,” Dunn said. “The best state universities in the country are those that are wedded to the regions they serve in order to be successful.”

Former Chancellor Sam Goldberg, a member of the SIAA, said he anticipates production of the building to begin quickly. Airport Manager Gary Shafer will control the construction process.

Tyler Davis can be reached at[email protected],on Twitter @tdavis_DE