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‘Leveraging’ resources one key to success

How communities develop their resources is an indication of how successful those communities are. The principle is one of the keys to big success in small towns that author Jack Schultz will discuss at next week’s Sauk Valley Symposium.

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012 8:53 a.m. CDT

When Jack Schultz gives the keynote address at the Sauk Valley Symposium next week, consideration of the community’s resources likely will be on his mind.

Schultz wrote “Boomtown USA: The 71/2 Keys to Big Success in Small Towns,” and Key 3 is titled “Leverage Your Resources.”

The chapter details various types of resources and how particular communities take advantage of them.

The concept is not new to many Sauk Valley communities. Examples of leveraging resources abound.

The Rock River is considered quite a resource for communities from Oregon, Grand Detour and Dixon to Rock Falls, Sterling and Prophetstown.

The river has been utilized in a wide variety of ways, and new ideas keep popping up, such as the Heritage Crossing Riverfront Plaza in Dixon and riverfront development plans in Rock Falls and Sterling.

A big catfish tournament was started several years ago, and the Rock River Sweep has the potential to become more than just a trash pickup activity.

From Fulton to Rochelle, examples of leveraging resources are found. Fulton’s Dutch heritage became something more when the community constructed an authentic Dutch windmill on the Mississippi River levee. Rochelle’s railroad heritage was leveraged into the Rochelle Railroad Park, which rail enthusiasts visit to watch the trains go by.

Whiteside County is filled with interesting old barns, which begat the annual Whiteside County Barn Tour held every July. Could other area counties do the same?

Through hard work, investment and community cooperation, Dixon has leveraged its association with President Ronald Reagan quite effectively.

Oregon has been successful in leveraging its long association with artists and sculptors into ongoing activities that attract visitors.

Natural resources, such as local and state parks, are there for the leveraging. In particular, the Nachusa Grasslands restored prairie is a wonderful resource that is featured in one annual event. Perhaps more could be done to attract visitors there at other times of the year.

Man-made resources also can be leveraged. In recent years, Rock Falls has done more to leverage the Hennepin Canal as a recreational resource. And recently, a section of the Rock River Trail was dedicated.

Sterling is fortunate to have a large manufacturer of electric shavers in its midst. Perhaps Wahl Clipper’s products could be featured in some sort of new community activity – a hair cutting contest or a beard trimming contest, for example.

Sterling also is fortunate to have the Westwood Sports Complex. Could it be further leveraged to the community’s advantage?

Former Sterling Mayor Ted Aggen, now deceased, wanted to leverage the city’s manufacturing heritage into a museum that would tell the story of the community’s association with steel and hardware. Aggen’s idea still has merit.

The list goes on. Famous drummer Louie Bellson came from Rock Falls. In his later years, the city developed a festival in his honor.

Famous fantasy author Terry Brooks hails from Sterling. Brooks, a New York Times best-selling author, could be recognized in some way by his hometown.

Could more be done to capitalize on the historical and tourism value of the old Peoria-Galena Trail that passed through the region in the 1800s?

Are area towns getting enough out of their interstate highway access? Could more development occur? We continue to believe that an interchange on the 22-mile stretch of uninterrupted interstate between Dixon and Rochelle could benefit Lee County.

We’ve barely scratched the surface of the region’s resources. Schultz’s address begins at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 3 at Sauk Valley Community College’s Jerry Mathis Theater. A reception at 5:30 in the East Mall precedes the presentation.

We invite area residents to attend, and we encourage you to think of how other resources in our region could be leveraged to the advantage of all.

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