MACOMB — With a new director, comes a new perspective.
The Macomb Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau’s new director, Jock Hedblade, said in an interview with the Voice, “My biggest goal and the actual purpose of the MACVB is to make sure that people come in and spend the night here with us, spend a day or two with us.”
Jock Hedblade is a Macomb native and Western Illinois University alumnus with 35 years of extensive experience in television and radio production, according to MACVB President Dave Dorsett. He started as the new director last week.
Hedblade continued saying that while he is glad Macomb area residents are enjoying what is offered to them, the new focus should be on incentivizing community members from further away “and having them spend the night. That is going to be my main focus, and it should be the main focus for this particular job as to bring tourism in and any conventions.”
Hedblade noted the Burlington Kennel Club, which held an American Kennel Club-sanctioned conformation dog show at Spencer Student Recreation Center on the Western Illinois University campus back in July, was an example of a successful convention.
“The dog show isn’t really a convention, but it works that way, and that’s been a great success that I think we can expand on,” he said. Hedblade said that convention is good because it “brings people in from all over the country” to a facility that is indoors and air conditioned. When asked what makes Macomb the sort of town that can attract and retain tourism and conventions, Hedblade said, “Well, we have to make it that kind of a town. I mean, what this town already has is the charm of a lot of these small cities across America where really is the heart of America.”
Small towns have a way of making big statements. “It’s where people come out,” Hedblade continued. “When you look at celebrities and politicians and people of note, the majority of those people come out of towns just like Macomb.”
“Macomb has an amazing amount of people that have come out of this town who have gone on to be very big in whatever field or endeavor that they’re into including many of the people I knew and grew up with.”
Although places like Macomb may not have the prestige of larger metropolitan cities, small cities posses a certain Norman Rockwell-esqe appeal through common venues like the town square.
Hedblade said this town also has a tremendous amount of history. “It has a town square that is historic and unique to Macomb. And so, there is a lot here; there is a lot that needs to be improved in this town, too, to bring people in.” He suggested that some areas with room for improvement are “our dining and our shopping and something that allows more variety in both.”
In recent months, the city has seen a flourish of new dining options with the advent of The Jerk Shop Go, which is a walk-up eatery offering Jamaican cuisine, and The Study — an establishment that opened in November and offers coffee and specialty drinks. Combo franchise Dunkin’ Donuts/Baskin-Robbins recently opened,   and a brand-new McAlister’s Deli is currently under construction on an adjacent lot next to Hampton Inn.
These new businesses show that “Macomb is on the rise and moving,” Hedblade said. “The events are going to draw people in; it’s going to be that infrastructure with the dining and shopping, which helps to incentive people to stay more than one night in the city.”
But the long-term vision of what Macomb might or should be is not within his “bailiwick,” Hedblade said. “I am not in charge of any of the business development. Now, we’ll work hand-in-hand with the downtown business development and help them in any way we can.”
Further defining the role he would play, Hedblade said Macomb Area Economic Development Corporation President Kim Pierce and Downtown Development Coordinator Kristin Terry are “very instrumental” in the various businesses which have sprung up in recent months.
Leveraging the success generated by new businesses and residents’ positive response to recent events such as Dickens On The Square, Hedblade explained he returns to his native Macomb because “not only do I want to help this town be the best town it can be, but that I can see this town is already moving in that direction already.”
“It’s there, it’s got some momentum, the momentum is building, and I hope I can add to that momentum in some way and bring my expertise to this town to help that,” he said.
“I love this town, it’s my home town. Even though I have been gone for 35 years, Macomb has always been home to me.”

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