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Leveraging resources can lift the Sauk Valley

No matter their size, area communities have unique resources. Finding ways to further develop and maximize them should be an ongoing process.

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

When a community leverages its resources, that means its people try to get the most out of what their community already has.

The concept was stressed by entrepreneur and author Jack Schultz in his “Boomtown USA” book and presentation last fall at Sauk Valley Community College.

Lately, we have seen several examples of a community leveraging its resources.

For example, Tampico has Ronald Reagan as a resource. The future president was born in Tampico 102 years ago today. Tampico leverages that resource every year by celebrating Reagan’s birthday with cake and tours of the Reagan birthplace and museum, an event that brings people to town and boosts the village’s profile.

Dixon also has a resource in Ronald Reagan. Dixon has done much with its Reagan connections, through his boyhood home, school, two statues, and Reagan Trail Days festival.

Not content with that, city leaders, historians and tourism officials met last week at the Dixon Historic Center to talk about promoting the region’s connections with President Abraham Lincoln and Black Hawk.

Lincoln’s profile is much higher these days because of the successful Steven Spielberg movie and the ongoing sesquicentennial of the Civil War (1861-1865).

Lincoln’s time spent in the Sauk Valley was limited but interesting nonetheless. He served here in 1832 during the Black Hawk War, and he traveled through the region and gave political speeches in the 1850s.

The impressive new Black Hawk exhibit at the Dixon Historic Center, along with Black Hawk War sites in the region, could be another reason for people to visit.

Leveraging historical resources has succeeded elsewhere. So has leveraging recreational resources.

In the Hennepin Feeder Canal, Rock Falls has both.

Rock Falls leaders have been talking about how the community could further enhance the 106-year-old canal’s attractiveness to tourists.

The city has formed a Hennepin Canal committee to consider whether it would make sense for Rock Falls to annex a 2.2-mile stretch, lease it from the state, and further develop the waterway.

A presentation made at last week’s City Council meeting gave officials more information on the Renaissance Hennepin Canal project, which interest groups in Henry County have promoted. They envision three restored canal locks that would allow “canal cruising” from Rock Falls to Geneseo.

Much work would be required to clear fallen branches from the canal’s banks. Culverts that replaced the original canal bridges also are an obstacle to long-distance cruises.

But Rock Falls could be on to something good.

We encourage communities across the region to keep looking for ways to leverage their resources and give the Sauk Valley a lift.

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