DIXON – The featured speaker in the second Sauk Valley Symposium is Jack Schultz, founder and CEO of Agracel, an industrial development firm specializing in rural America.
Schultz also is the author of “Boomtown USA: The 71⁄2 Keys to Big Success in Small Towns.”
“Boomtown,” published in 2004, took more than 3 years to research. He began with a list of 15,800 small towns that he winnowed to 397 of what he calls agburbs.
A meet-and-greet with Schultz will begin at 5:30 p.m. in Sauk Valley Community College’s East Mall. At 6:30 p.m., he will give the keynote address in the Jerry Mathis Theater.
Jason Anderson, economic development director for the city of Rochelle and the Greater Rochelle Economic Development Corp., also will share his community’s successful implementation of the “Boomtown USA” principles.
Schultz will discuss the commonalities in successful towns, and give examples of success stories from small towns across the country, he said.
Schultz, who says he has visited Sterling, Dixon and Rock Falls many times over the last 20 years, commended residents’ higher level of education compared to the national average.
“The downside, the Achilles’ heel, is that they are aging,” he said. “The average age is in the low to mid-40s, whereas the national average is 36. It’s about 15 to 20 percent higher than the national average.”
He has visited towns where the average age is 50, and it’s “not a very pretty sight,” he said. “The future of these communities is pretty dim.”
Schultz, who encourages an entrepreneurial approach, will bring a speaker who has created a program called Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities. The speaker will share ideas that have worked around the country and can be used to better the Sauk Valley, Schultz said.
Agriculture will continue to be key to the Sauk Valley economy, he said.
“World demographics are pretty incredible with the amount of people that are going to be eating better,” Schultz said. “For example, China is bringing a population equivalent to the entire population of Germany into the middle class each and every year. They are eating more protein ... going to eat pork, and all of those are very positive for American agriculture in the long term.”
Schultz said it is “critically important” for towns like Dixon, Sterling and Rock Falls to develop their riverfronts and downtowns. Such improvements are necessary to attract young people to the area, he said.
“As you look at the millennial generation, kids in high school and college today, quality of life is going to be much more important,” he said. Members of this generation first move to a town they wish to live in, then look for a job there, Schultz said.
“If you are going to be a destination of choice, you’ve got to work on quality-of-life issues,” he said.
He also will give examples of other places where people and companies chose communities because of the quality of life they afford.
Jack Schultz, founder and CEO of Agracel, an industrial development firm specializing in rural America and author of “Boomtown USA: The 7 1/2 Keys to Big Success in Small Towns," will speak tonight at Sauk Valley Community College, 173 state Route 2.
The evening begins with a reception at 5:30 p.m. in the East Mall.
Schultz's address begins at 6:30 p.m. at the college's Jerry Mathis Theater. The program is expected to wrap up by 8 p.m.
Admission is free.