Wanted: More jobs, without changing local way of life

Whiteside residents respond to survey as county crafts comprehensive plan

MORRISON – Whiteside County residents want more jobs, more industry, more economic development, but not at the expense of their rural quality of life.

That’s the major takeaway from a citizen survey report compiled by MSA Professional Services, the consultant helping to devise Whiteside County’s first comprehensive plan.

In October, surveys were distributed online and via mail to 6,000 households using a list of randomly selected names in the county’s property database, including about 100 renters. The mail survey was returned by 768 residents, and about 50 completed the survey online.

The topics were quality of life, transportation, agricultural and natural resources, hazards, community facilities and services, housing, economic development, and land use.

The majority of respondents were 65 or older and retired; most lived in or near Sterling, Rock Falls and Morrison.

Among the results:

• Economic development, farmland preservation, roads and highways, and land development and growth were the issues in which most said they were interested.

• In terms of land use, attracting industry and potential jobs was cited as the No. 1 priority, followed by preserving agricultural land and production, and protecting existing residential areas.

• Nearly 100 percent of respondents supported the development of light industry such as product fabrication and assembly, followed closely by high technology manufacturing, transport industrial business such as warehouses and distribution centers, and ag-related businesses such as implement dealers.

• About 42 percent of respondents agreed that “Whiteside County is a good place to start a business,” while 30 percent said they weren’t sure. About 5 percent strongly agreed, and another 5 percent strongly disagreed.

• More than 48 percent said the county needs more department stores, apparel and shoe stores, and sit-down restaurants, while about 45 percent, all 65 and older, said the options are adequate.

• About 87 percent of respondents said the county lacks employment opportunities, while nearly 29 percent who said they were employed also said they believed their employment was insecure.

For more information

The Whiteside County Comprehensive Plan has a website – whitesideplan.or – on which is posted the results of the citizens survey, along with other information being used to help devise the new roadmap for growth.

Betty Steinert, Whiteside County Economic Development, bsteinert@whiteside.org or 815-772-5182, is the point person; contact her to provide input or for more information on the plan.