Art, history, mystery and trains, some combination.You can find them all in Carbondale. Carbondale started in 1852 as a railroad town, 50 trains a day coming and going. And people are still coming to Carbondale to board the "Illinni" and "City of New Orleans', Amtrak's crack passenger train connecting the windy city and the big easy.
The old railroad town is now a modern college city. Southern Illinois University is the economic engine. John Jackson is SIU's acting chancellor, " we have a direct budget of about 300 million dollars a year and economists say that will turn over three times and that's about a billion-dollar direct impact on our budget alone." Then there's all that spending by 22-thousand 400 SIU students. "We teach school and we do it well. We take our undergraduates seriously even though we've got a tremendous graduate and research mission," says Jackson.
But, don't get the idea that SIU is all there is to Carbondale. Memorial Hospital and other caregivers employ 15-hundred people. Many Heartland people think of this town as a place to shop. University Mall anchors the booming east side business district. The mall's 85 stores attract three million shoppers a year. And several new stores are planned. Did you know that Murdale shopping center was one of the first of its kind in America?
And, things are cooking downtown. Barbecue is the menu for the main street pig out, September 15th and 16th. Just one of many Carbondale main street projects. "In the past, I think downtowns were seen as a place where people would keep in touch about families and talk about what was going on in their lives", says Jill Bratland of Carbondale's Main Street project . New fronts on buildings come with help from the program.