Illinois Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon presented the award to Walzer in Peoria at the Rural Community Economic Development Conference, during her Wednesday, March 7, remarks.
Prior to his work at NIU, Wzler founded the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs (IIRA) at Western Illinois University, which he directed until his retirement in 2006.
During the mid-1980s, he served as an adviser to the Task Force on the Future of Rural Illinois that recommended the formation of the Governor’s Rural Affairs Council and the creation of a permanent agency that addresses issues facing rural Illinois.
In response to the Task Force’s recommendation, Walzer created the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs at Western Illinois University.
Since its inception, the IIRA has helped more than 300 communities with projects to improve economic conditions and quality of life. The IIRA has earned a Lincoln Foundation for Business Excellence Award and recognition from many other professional organizations and groups through the years. The IIRA is considered a model for rural development and is being replicated in other states.
Walzer continues to work with the Governor’s Rural Affairs Council, Illinois Rural Partners and many other state and local government agencies on programs designed to help rural governments with economic development issues.
He currently is studying the impacts of governmental structure on local public finance in Illinois, issues facing small rural hospitals and factors underlying business starts in the Midwest. He has published widely on entrepreneurship, economic development, local public finance, infrastructure, health and related rural issues.
His most recent edited book is “Entrepreneurship and Local Development” (Lexington Books, 2007) and “Community Strategic Visioning Programs” is currently at the press (Routledge). He is completing a term as president of the Community Development Society.