“I think there is quite a bit of opportunity still in downstate Illinois. Building relationships has been the No. 1 thing about being here.

“When I was in school I interviewed at Northwestern Mutual [in] downtown [Chicago] and that was kind of appealing, but at that point in time I was already forming a business plan and I thought I’d rather go into business for myself.

“I got my undergrad at Millikin and my MBA in a sense starting a restaurant. So that kind of gave me a lot of knowledge and perseverance. Then I studied for my [real estate] license from 9 at night until midnight.

“People are definitely aware of [the population decline] and it’s been felt. Our retail market’s changed because of it and those jobs have been gone. At least two people that I know of are preparing to list their houses after the New Year and they’re looking at other states just to save themselves from that tax burden long term.

“I grew up in Chicago. I moved here, my dad moved here. Totally an outlier. Most people who grew up in Decatur who are my age end up going to school and going elsewhere. They don’t want to come back to Decatur.”

Zane Peterson
Decatur, Illinois