Champaign-Urbana is a city of almost 120,000 located amongst the corn and soybean fields about 150 miles south of Chicago. The area dates to about the mid-nineteenth century, as Urbana was founded in 1833, Champaign in 1855 and the University in 1867. Starting out as a farming community, the area matured into two cities with influences at various times through the years including the Illinois Central railroad, the University, now-defunct Chanute Air Force Base in nearby Rantoul and others. Today, the cities can be described as growing, cosmopolitan and ethnically diverse, with a modern urban feel in the area's core.
Today Champaign-Urbana is defined by some amount of traditional industry such as Kraft Foods and others, a growing technology and information sector, and the University. The University is the county's largest employer and a very large instituion of 43,000 students. It would be short-changing Champaign-Urbana to call it merely a college town. But there is no doubt that the center of gravity of the arts, entertainment, and intellectual communities rest with the University.
It would be safe to say that Champaign-Urbana is a very open-minded community with regard to social issues, and retains some Midwestern values such as virtue of hard work. Urbana is seen as the more politically liberal and pastoral of the two, and Champaign is seen as having more of a big-city feel. Champaign-Urbana residents are proud of their oasis of culture and big-city amenities amongst the cornfields, of the less intense traffic, sprawl and lower cost of living here compared to major cities, and of the University of Illinois Fighting Illini sports teams.
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Updated: 18th June, 2019 6:35 PM.