Supporting A Vision Of Industry & Tourism.

Supporting A Vision Of Industry & Tourism. Main Photo

26 Nov 2014

By Tricia Goecks
Editor of the Belvidere Daily Republican

Since being named as the executive director of Growth Dimensions in September, Jarid Funderburg has big plans and a vision for growing and supporting Boone County’s economy.

“I have a vision for Belvidere and Boone County. I think it is probably a vision that a lot of people in Belvidere and Boone County have,” Funderburg said. “And that is to see a vibrant downtown, a healthy housing community, great schools and a destination for people to come to.”

In the short term, to accomplish that vision, Funderburg plans to strengthen the ties of communication and collaboration with Growth Dimensions, the City of Belvidere, County officials, the Chamber of Commerce as well as key players and members of the community. “Communication is essential,” Funderburg said. “If we are on the same page looking at the same vision or goal, it will be easier.”

He praised Belvidere Mayor Mike Chamberlain’s vision for the community. “He is very well engaged and he certainly has a tremendous amount of opportunity in the City of Belvidere which is the core of the community,” Funderburg said. “He just got back from Louisville and he shared ideas of ways to utilize vacant space in the community and to make it a unique draw for entrepreneurism and opportunity for people in the city. It is great to hear and to see him working so hard for the City of Belvidere.”

Funderburg is working with the Rockford Regional Economic Development District to submit an application for an Enterprise Zone designation from the State of Illinois. If approved, the Enterprise Zone designation will be larger than the one currently in place in Boone County and will provide local and state rebates and tax incentives to encourage business investment in the community and provide an attractive option to area businesses to make capital improvements. “It will give us better leverage to attract more business – both retail and primary employment in the area,” Funderburg added.

In addition to the expansion of the Enterprise Zone, Funderburg saw growth and potential of a light industrial corridor near the recently completed I-90 project and the expansion of the Irene Road Interchange. The area is close to significant interstate, air, and rail service as well as being within 20 miles of the second largest UPS hub in the United States. 

In addition to economic growth in the City of Belvidere, Funderburg outlined a vision for rural Boone County that embraced its agricultural and conservation roots. “From the conservation or natural land, there is so much beauty in the county with the parks. The Boone County Conservation District has worked their fingers to the bone. There are many opportunities with conservation. There are a lot of great reasons for people to see those parks and experience them,” Funderburg said.

On the Growth Dimensions website, they provide links to many organizations that could be considered in the agritourism industry. Boone County has many hidden gems that if leveraged to its advantage can bring agricultural tourists to the area. Although many are already familiar with places or activities such as the Boone County Fair, Edwards Apple Orchard or Pioneer Days, there are many other places that poised to attract tourists of urbanites looking for a weekend in the country. Those places include Angelic Organics Learning Center, McEachran Homestead, Kinnikinnick Farm, The Complete Sheep Shoppe, Wind Ridge Herb Farm, Susie’s Garden Patch, and the Poplar Grove Airport and a myriad of antique stores.

Funderburg spoke promoting Boone County as a destination for agricultural tourism. He mentioned the experience of northern Indiana’s Fair Oaks Farm’s mega dairy operation that has 30,000 head on 30 square miles, and on any given day 80 – 100 cows give birth. “They have the creamery, the restaurant, the ice cream, and all the little stuffed animals. They also have an area for school children to go and see the farm experience. This farm operation has studios where they will have bleachers set up and you can watch a cow calve and give birth,” Funderburg said. “It is a remarkable experience to witness. There is a lot of fascination in that. These kids in the city they get to see something completely remarkable and it makes them think maybe I want to be a farmer.”

Funderburg also praised the growth of the small farm industry in Boone County. “We are seeing point where smaller farms are coming back because a different generation is seeing the opportunity of growing organic for market of farmer’s markets,” Funderburg said.

Lastly, Funderburg stressed the need for Growth Dimensions and residents of Boone County to support local businesses and restaurants. “There are ways to help and support these businesses through the Small Business Association or through SCORE which is on the website for the Chamber of Commerce,” Funderburg said.

“I would like to take it a step further to try to get the community more involved in supporting their downtown shops. We have to get people to know that there is a downtown. There are these shops. People don’t know about some of these places on our website. As a community if we are all working together, all promoting it together, they would have better odds of surviving.”

“It is exciting to be able to see those things in action. It takes a community,” Funderburg added.

Published by Rock Valley Publishing in the Belvidere Daily Republican on 11.26.2014