When Marion Chamber Executive Director Stephanie Boien and her husband re-located to Missouri in 1998, Jim Brandt and Don Bett, with strong encouragement by Stephanie Boien, decided it was a good time to try some of the Tupelo recommendations. They thought it was an ideal time to separate the direct industrial development activities from the Marion Chamber, to pool all resources with as many others in the area as possible, and form a professional organization that could hire an experienced executive director to focus exclusively on industrial development.
Before she left, Stephanie Boien, a close friend of Mayor Butler, suggested that Don Bett should talk to the mayor about the idea of a new organization and determine his support. Bett found the mayor having coffee in a local restaurant early one morning, and after a short discussion, the mayor quickly and enthusiastically endorsed the idea, suggesting that an exploratory committee be formed. He added that after that committee got the basics put together that he would be willing to join the committee. This meeting at the local Steak and Shake restaurant is the time and place that most people remember as “the day REDCO was born.”
Marion Chamber President Jim Brandt appointed a committee of Don Bett, Hugh Crane, Gene Norman and Dutch Doelitzsch to join him planning the details for forming the new organization. At the first meeting, Bett was appointed temporary chairman of the committee and he and Brandt outlined the committee’s goals and explained why they thought a new area-wide organization for economic development could and should be formed. Knowing that the majority of the initial financial support would need to come from the City of Marion, the committee thought it should again check with the Chamber Executive Committee and the Marion City Council to see if the committee had their full support, and found that they did.
At the second meeting Bett agreed to start work on a set of by-laws based on those he had received from GREDCO in Rochelle, and the committee decided to ask Mayor Butler to immediately join the committee. At the next meeting the committee decided that the organization should be named the Regional Economic Development Corporation and referred to by the acronym REDCO. The committee also decided that the by-laws should be set up so the new corporation could be a countywide organization. Everyone on the committee wanted an organization that would permit all Williamson County Chambers of Commerce, cities and governmental units to join.
After many meetings, a lot of hours getting ideas, recommendations from several successful economic development organizations, comments by industry leaders, and numerous reviews and revisions of the By-Laws, the committee tried to blend the best of the shared expertise into the REDCO By-Laws for governing the organization. The City of Marion and the Marion Chamber of Commerce shortly thereafter made an official commitment to start funding the new economic development endeavor. Attorney Steve Green volunteered to handle free of charge the legal aspects of gaining Illinois not-for-profit corporation status for the organization, and he began the process of obtaining an IRS tax-exempt status for the fledgling economic development organization now officially known as REDCO.