CARTHAGE, Ill. -- Belynda Allen says she always wants to help the community where she lives to grow and thrive.
Now living in Nauvoo, Allen hopes to do just that not only there but across Hancock County.
Allen is the first full-time executive director of Hancock County Economic Development Corp., taking over in June for Terry Pope, who retired from what had been a part-time position.
"A lot of things are falling into place. So far, the communication has been really good, which I think is wonderful. The leaders, the mayors, my board of directors are so welcoming," Allen said. "I really feel like there's been a lot of progress even in this short of a span."
HCED President Matt Kraus said Allen brings a driving passion for economic development to the job.
"Belynda's eagerness to do what she can to improve the economy of the county and the surrounding area made her stand out," Kraus said.
Allen previously served as executive director of the Rantoul Area Chamber of Commerce and is the owner of Fancy Thrift and Resale Emporium Tea Room and Event Center in Villa Grove.
Allen, 53, grew up in upstate New York before moving to the Champaign-Urbana area, where as a business owner, she became involved in economic development. The new job and its emphasis on economic development appealed because the county "is so beautiful with so many opportunities for growth, but I like so much of what is already here," she said.
"It is just picking up the pace already put in place by HCED and the previous director, picking up what he had started and continuing," she said. "Terry was able to lay a lot of groundwork in a very difficult time. I feel very blessed to step into this role -- and to come in at a much more favorable season."
Allen sees greater collaboration and communication at the state level, with additional help from the capital bill and economic development funding.
"People are getting on the same track which is nice," she said. "This will be wonderful for the whole western region. This is a great opportunity."
HCED is a nonprofit organization with the goal of enhancing the county's economic vitality. It is funded by memberships of individuals, businesses and local governments who aim to improve the quality of life in the area that they love.
Allen also is working on a master's degree in economic development at Western Illinois University, another plus for her work in the county, and as a business owner, she appreciates not only the work involved to succeed but the impact business can have on the county.
"The two main industries we have going for us in Hancock County are tourism and ag. By living in Nauvoo, it's like I'm right in the middle of both of them,"' she said.
"When I see places like Hancock County that have so much undisturbed beauty, I love that part of it. There's not enough of that left in the world, or at least in the U.S.," she said. "I also see the opportunities that exist in transportation and many fields, in industry, in ag that can still be utilized without disturbing that."
More information about Hancock County Economic Development Corp. is available online at growhancock.com.