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Economic opportunities opening up in Lee County

DIXON – Economic opportunities are on the rise with hundreds of acres coming available and efforts being made to prime areas in the county for development, the executive director of the Lee County Industrial Development Association said.

The industrial park just south of Interstate 88 is nearly full, with only about 7 acres left, which has limited the city’s position when it comes to drawing in new development, LCIDA executive director Kevin Marx told the County Board early this week. He’s had to be unresponsive to some proposals because there simply wasn’t enough space available.

That position is now changing.

“Hundreds of acres are now on the market,” he said.

In September, the City Council approved an agreement with Connie and Larry Clayton and Larry and Louise Ferguson to conduct a topographic study of two farm properties, which total about 150 acres south of I-88 and east of the industrial park, where East Corporate and Progress drives end.

They’re surveying the land and seeing how it could be subdivided into smaller parcels so pieces could be separated from the farmland and used for future development.

The agreement also includes an option for the city to have the first opportunity at purchasing the smaller pieces of land at a fixed price.

In addition to working on expanding the business park and I-88 Corridor, there’s also the Viaduct Point riverfront revitalization project, Marx said.

It’s an initiative where the city and the Lee County Industrial Development Association secured about 13 parcels along the west end of the riverfront and downtown, about 10 acres stretching from the Peoria Avenue Bridge to the viaducts.

Goals are to ready the area for redevelopment, with the possibility of bringing in restaurants, shops, a hotel or possibly new residential development.

Another economic development tool with potential down the road is the city’s federal Opportunity Zone, which includes Viaduct Point properties and as well as land off South Galena Avenue near Walmart.

The zones aim to stimulate economic development by giving investors a tax break for reinvesting unrealized profits in the protected areas.

Census tracts in Dixon, Rock Falls and Savanna are among the 327 areas in Illinois to receive federal approval for designation as an Opportunity Zone.

LCIDA has also been working with the Greater Rochelle Economic Development Corp. with development efforts south of Rochelle, which includes about 1,000 acres of land.

They’re reaching a stride with economic development, but the best growth for rural communities comes from expansions from existing businesses, which is also being made more a priority, Marx said.

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