QUINCY -- Data show that the economic impact of the Illinois Veterans Home extends far beyond the city of Quincy and well above the facility's $54 million annual budget.
Robin Hanna, project manager for the Rural Economic Technical Assistance Center in Macomb, did an analysis that tracks the Veterans Home's economic ripples across the state. He said the "total economic output" is $90.7 million a year in Illinois. That doesn't count data from Missouri.
"It's not just the 500 jobs that are there, but for every job that is at the facility, almost another three-quarters of a position is created through the multiplier effect," Hanna said.
Hanna's study was sought by a steering committee set up by Quincy Mayor Kyle Moore in January. The panel has focused on finding the best ways to upgrade the Veterans Home after Legionnaires' disease outbreaks that began in 2015, resulting in 13 deaths and more than 60 illnesses.
After the initial outbreak, the state spent $6.39 million on a water purification system at the home that adds chemicals to water and heats it to kill Legionella and other bacteria, and then adds filters where the water is dispensed. Still, there have been four confirmed cases of Legionella in the bloodstreams of residents since the first of the year.
Moore said the economic study shows that closing the Veterans Home would affect more than just the city of Quincy.
"It's not just an economic driver for the city; if there was a closure, it would ripple throughout the state," he said.
Hanna said he used software to track three levels of data in his study. The direct employment impact involves people who work at the home. Indirect impact can be found through vendors who sell or provide secondary services, but do not work full time at the home. A third level of economic activity involves people or businesses receiving money from those vendors or service providers.
"The Veterans Home is a surprisingly strong source of good jobs in the region," Hanna said. "I had driven by the home before, but I didn't realize its physical size or its importance to the region with respect to employees and vendors and households."
A procession of elected officials have visited the home in recent months.
Marcel Wagner Jr., president of the Great River Economic Development Foundation, who is a member of the steering committee, said that when U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth visited the home last week, the discussion once more turned to whether to build new buildings on the Veterans Home campus or repair existing structures. Duckworth repeated her pledge to help get federal funds for upgrades.
State officials have worked since the first Legionella outbreak with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs Director Erica Jeffries has praised the work of Veterans Home staff members who check temperatures and look for any symptoms of illness among residents.
"For over a century, our veterans home in Quincy has not only been an economic benefit to Adams County and the surrounding counties, but a friend to the community, as well," Jeffries said.
"We are proud that we can offer incredible careers to over 500 staff members and use local companies to support our projects and programs. We know our success is due to the economic success of our local communities. We are proud to be part of the Quincy community, and we look forward to remaining a vibrant part of this community."