FILE - Kankakee County Courthouse

The Kankakee County Courthouse in Kankakee, Illinois.

It’s no secret that Illinois is losing population, but a new report found that one Illinois town is losing its educated people at a faster clip than every other town in the nation except one.

Local officials say the report doesn’t tell the whole story. They say the area is now gaining jobs faster than any other in the nation.

Bloomberg News publishes an annual Brain Drain Index every year. The index shows cities across the country that are losing people with higher education degrees in greater numbers than other areas. Site selectors often use factors like this to choose where to place businesses.

This year Kankakee was listed as the second highest in the nation on the Brain Drain Index for losses, only behind Hanford, California.

Tim Nugent with the Economic Alliance of Kankakee County said those numbers were real, but only a snapshot of a moment in 2016 when the area had just lost two major employers.

“The NutraSweet Merisant plant had closed back then along with the Bunge facility,” he said.

Those two businesses accounted for more than 300 well-paid job losses.

Since then, Nugent said the area has been rebounding faster than anywhere else in the nation.

“We have about a 50,000-person workforce in Kankakee County and right now we have 2,900 more people working this October than we’ve had last October,” he said. “That is the highest increase of anywhere in the nation.”

Other areas in Illinois had also seen a brain drain, but it was in line with population losses there. Areas around the Chicago suburbs saw a concentration of college-educated people move in.

The Kankakee County area is home to drug manufacturer CSL Behring, which has expanded rapidly, hiring more than 300 additional workers since 2015 and has plans to further expand.


Cole Lauterbach reports on Illinois government and statewide issues for INN. Lauterbach has managed and produced shows for news/talk radio stations in both Bloomington/Normal and Peoria, and created award-winning programs for Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

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