Business is good in the Sauk Valley, if you believe recent headlines in this newspaper.
During the past few weeks, several retailers and service providers have reported they are setting up shop in this area or expanding their existing operations with new offices.
In Dixon, RadioShack has announced it will put a store in Presidential Parkway Plaza off South Galena Avenue, not far from where Hibbett Sports plans to open a new store. Hibbett already does business in Northland Mall in Sterling.
On the north end of Galena Avenue, a new bakery and café is planned by the owner of Folsom’s Bakery in Rock Falls. Nearby, a Liquor ’N’ Wine store will open on the site of the former Premier Car Wash, where owner Manesh Patel will set up his fourth store (one of them in Rochelle).
Motorists along East Lincolnway in Sterling have noticed a 6,500-square-foot building going up on the east end of the Northland Mall parking lot, where Advance Auto Parts hopes to be in business by October.
A few blocks east along Lincolnway, Cellular Connection of Rock Falls will open a second store, and a financial adviser with Edward Jones will do business from the investment firm’s fourth local office.
And this coming Friday is the scheduled premiere for the “brew and view” in the downtown Sterling Theater, where beer and wine will be served with a light menu to enhance the local movie-going experience. Break a leg!
Amid a lingering national mood of economic uncertainty, why are businesses so willing to invest their time and money in the Sauk Valley?
Obviously, they are confident they can succeed. They see a region that has taken some big hits over the past decade, one that has seen more than its share of change, and yet has continued to be a good place to do business.
The Sauk Valley rates well in many of the qualities that attract new employers and encourage existing businesses to expand: an available workforce, a strong transportation system, good schools, abundant recreational opportunities, and reasonably low taxes, among them.
But the Sauk Valley can remain an attractive place for business only with a stable or growing population. A steady decline would erode the employee and customer base that businesses need to succeed.
While the 2010 Census showed the local population had not changed dramatically since 2000, it continued a trend in lower numbers of Caucasian residents and growth only among non-whites. Obviously, the Sauk Valley community is adapting well to an increasingly diverse population mix, and it must continue to do so to ensure our region’s future.
In that vein, we note that one morning last week, business, law enforcement and faith leaders gathered downstate for a forum organized by the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce to discuss immigration reform. The event continued an “Illinois Road to Recovery” campaign in which the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition is hosting events around the state.
The forum was co-sponsored by the Great Lakes Region of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Bibles, Badges & Business for Immigration Reform network to “emphasize why Illinois businesses and communities urgently need common-sense immigration reform.”
The immigration coalition promotes reform to support economic recovery in Illinois, works to provide Illinois companies with both high-skilled and low-skilled workers, and urges the integration of immigrants into the state’s economy “as consumers, workers, entrepreneurs and citizens.”
Immigrants are already a major factor in the Illinois economy, and our corner of northwestern Illinois is no exception. Despite the cries of “amnesty” from those who oppose any path to citizenship for people who entered the country illegally, we must recognize that immigrants contribute far more to the economy than they take.
As an immigration reform bill grinds its way through Congress this fall, folks in the Sauk Valley should understand what is at stake – for their community as well as the country. Several complex issues are involved, but at the heart of the matter is that the nation’s more diverse workforce and customer base is a reality we cannot change but must continue to adapt to.
That’s just good business – here and everywhere.