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'Now, it's not about internal politics'

In March 2012, I listed the 10 economic development groups that serve Whiteside and Lee counties.

All of them, I noted, were working for essentially the same cause – improving the local economy.

Let me get one thing out of the way before I proceed: Local economic development groups often don't like it when people point out there are so many of them around here. They say the implication is that they don't work together.

In fact, they cooperate on a venture to increase economic development along Interstate 88. They also say they refer business prospects to one another.

But does the fact that we have all of these separate organizations get in the way of economic development?

For instance, Rock Falls and Sterling have separate chambers of commerce and economic development groups.

Why?

Yes, the two towns have a history. They haven't always gotten along. Last year, however, we looked at other twin cities – usually much larger – and they have set aside their differences and joined forces in economic development.

We've mentioned the consolidation in the Quad Cities. The Illinois and Iowa chambers there joined in 2010. The combined chamber formed an economic development group, Quad Cities First.

Paul Rumler, the chamber's executive vice president, told the Quad-City Times recently that meetings with prospects previously could be overwhelming for them with three chambers, employees from cities and various economic development groups taking part.

"But now we are there to meet the client's needs," he said to the newspaper. "Now, it's not about internal politics."

Officials believe the new arrangement has brought in more business.

Whiteside County Board member Bob Van De Velde, D-Sterling, called my attention to the Quad-City Times story. He likes the setup there.

"If you are talking to two or more communities, you have a difficult time impressing people," he said. "What the Quad Cities did is that it created a committee that has power. They have been successful in bringing business there."

Some local leaders – Dixon Mayor Jim Burke comes to mind – have long talked about joining forces. Others seem happier with the multitude of groups.

Maybe consolidation is the way to go. Perhaps not.

But can we ignore it as an option?

David Giuliani is a reporter for Sauk Valley Media. He can be reached at dgiuliani@saukvalley or at 800-798-4085, ext. 525. 

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