DIXON – The new Lee County Board chairman wants economic development to be a key goal for the county, and a group is being formed to help make that happen.
Chairman John Nicholson, who has been on the board for about 2 decades, said Tuesday that they’re creating a new committee to focus on economic development, especially between Rochelle and Steward, where more than 1,000 acres of prime industrial development is opening up.
“There are numerous places in Lee County that need to be developed,” Nicholson said. “We’ve nearly filled the industrial park, and we want to develop more.”
The committee will be made up of board Vice Chairwoman Marilyn Shippert and board members Bob Olson, Dave Bowers, Arlan McClain and Tom Kitson, as well as County Engineer Dave Anderson, County Administrator Theresa Wittenauer and Dan Payette, executive director of the Blackhawk Hills Regional Council.
The group will work closely with the Lee County Industrial Development Association and the Greater Rochelle Economic Development Corp. to identify ways to promote growth, and there also will be a focus on pursuing grants to help with infrastructure improvements.
In August, Rochelle broke ground on a $7 million rail expansion project that’s 12 years in the making and is slated to open up a large development area in Lee County.
Businesses that come into the expansion area would be annexed into the city of Rochelle, but Lee County would share the tax revenues.
To fund the project, Rochelle received a $3.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration and $2.58 million from the Illinois Department of Transportation. An additional $1 million came from the city.
Also, about $2 million is being put toward building a new water main and sewer line at Hayes and Steward roads to prepare for business development.