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Meeting sparks look into Dixon's future

Group needed to address city’s ‘wants’

DIXON – Dixon’s future was the topic of discussion Thursday afternoon in the lower level of Loveland Community Building.

The Lee County Industrial Development Association held an economic development strategic planning symposium, which was led by businessman and author Jack Schultz, in an effort to revitalize the organization and form an image of Dixon’s future.

Schultz, who is the author of “Boomtown USA: The 7 1/2 Keys to Big Success in Small Towns,” started the symposium with the business and city government leaders listing Dixon’s strengths and then listing what they wish the city had.

Among the more than two dozen strengths was a highly rated hospital, the riverfront, the boyhood home of Ronald Reagan, Interstates 88 and 39, the Petunia Festival and historic downtown.

The wants, or “wish list,” included increased internship opportunities to keep young residents in Dixon, more higher-paying jobs, mass transit to Chicago and an entertainment or sports venue to increase the tourist draw.

Bridging the gap between the strengths and the wants, Schultz said, starts with, “setting out some goals like this and identifying the issues that you want to work on. And developing a plan of attack, of how you’re going to accomplish that.”

To get the city to the wants listed Thursday, Schultz said, a group of people committed to “doing what it takes” is needed. The group doesn’t need to be large, he said.

Schultz was clear about his role as a facilitator, and wouldn’t speak to what direction he thought Dixon should be taken.

“I don’t think I should come in from the outside and recommend what the community should do,” he said. “It’s a thing that should grow from within the community. ... And that’s why we’re doing this [symposium], for the community to identify it. All I’m doing is acting as the facilitator to try and get some ideas on the floor.”

Among the nearly 75 attendees was David Nord, the finalist for the city administrator position. Nord’s hire is expected to be approved by the City Council during a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.

The symposium and the discussion of Dixon’s future were part of an effort by the development association’s board to re-energize itself and the Dixon economy, said president and CEO John Thompson.

“The board is an older board. It’s been around a long time,” he said. “Even though we’ve accomplished a lot, we’re kind of at an opportune time, we feel, where it’s a good idea to re-energize what the group’s doing, maybe refocus, getting some more new folks involved to freshen up our pool of ideas.”

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