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The rewarding path of economic development

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Some people grow up idolizing athletes. Others look to pop stars or presidents for inspiration. Government employee Tim Neubeck found his hero in a Depression-era public works project. "I was sixteen when I first went and saw the Hoover Dam, and saw it again in my early twenties," he says. "I was thoroughly impressed with getting something accomplished that needed to be done." A passion for benefitting the greater good has led Neubeck to a career in the public sector where he's currently --and happily -- employed.

Neubeck lives in the university town of Bloomington-Normal, Ill., where he works for a countywide economic development agency of a public-private partnership that expands existing businesses both physically (as in their facilities) and in terms of their product lines while also acting as an advocating body for the county. "I work with a lot of statistics and numbers," says Neubeck. "If there's any type of study that has to be done, I'm the one that's doing it." He also handles public relations materials, attends meetings and represents both the agency and Livingston County.

Initially a statistics major in college, Neubeck switched to political science because he discovered that was more aligned with his personal passions and that his knack for numbers could come in handy in local government. "Somebody has to run numbers for the government and that was a lot more what I wanted to do," he says. "I took my expertise in math and applied it to political science." 

After his first stint in the public sector, Neubeck pursued a master's in public administration and tried the private sector only to discover it wasn't interested in his skill set. "Anytime I went on job interviews and told them my work experience or my education, frequently I was told that it was not relevant," he says. "I don't think many people in the private sector understand what we do."

A job in government is not without its drawbacks. Neubeck is blunt about his modest salary and also the benefits that come with it. But he also says his compensation is compatible with the cost of living in central Illinois and even goes so far to say he lives like a king in his 1,000-square-foot apartment. "Whatever you're going to get paid in the public sector, for the average person it's going to be enough to live off of," Neubeck says. "If you know a thing or two about investing and know how to find deals, you're going to live extremely well. I don't live paycheck to paycheck."

On the plus side, the hours and quality of life are better. Neubeck lives a half-mile from his office and clocks in 50-55 hours each week compared to the grueling 70-hour weeks he remembers from his brief time in the private sector. More importantly, he gets to help people. "Each of the projects I'm working on has a concrete benefit to Livingston County," he shares. "At the end of the day, I can put a word or number on what I did and how I benefited everybody."

Last Updated: 13/06/2012 - 3:20 PM

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