SUCCESS AND OPPORTUNITY IN BOONE COUNTY ILLINOIS
28 Sep 2022
The following is Executive Director Pamela Lopez-Fettes’ presentation, given at the Growth Dimensions 2022 Annual Reception on September 8, 2022.
STATE OF THE MARKET
Economic predictions and forecasting have been tossed a lot of curves this year. There have been priorities that were not foreseen, such as shortages in materials and equipment, as well as the workforce shortage. This has taught us that there are many variables that make a community vibrant and stable. One thing we do know is that economic development is an essential part of your community, regardless of the challenges we face.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IS ESSENTIAL
Economic Development is the key group in charge of strategy for revenue. They create wealth in the community and bring value to support police, fire, education, infrastructure and other components important to a community.
They are an extension of business and the liaison with government. Economic Developers, such as Growth Dimensions, understand business challenges and priorities and what it takes to navigate through the public process, in order for businesses to take advantage of available resources.
They are advocates for businesses, industry, municipalities, education, workforce, population growth and quality of life.
They are innovators and creative thinkers who develop solutions that elevate a community’s potential.
With all of the different hats economic developers wear, it takes a solid team to make everything happen.
TEAMWORK MAKES THE DREAM WORK
Pamela Lopez-Fettes, Heather Wick and Kim Coniglio make up the trio at Growth Dimensions Economic Development.
Pamela started with Growth Dimensions in February 2017 as the Executive Director, a position she still holds today. She has more than 30 years of experience in the economic development and workforce fields.
Heather, Business Enterprise Manager, came onboard in October 2019. She plays an integral part in the organization’s communications and branding.
Kim is the Administrative Assistant and the essential, first point of contact for Growth Dimensions. She started with Growth Dimensions in February 2020.
Along with Pamela, Heather and Kim, Growth Dimensions is supported by key industry, business and community leaders. The Board of Directors play a key role in overseeing and providing guidance, to ensure the organization’s purpose and mission are fulfilled within Belvidere, Boone County and the surrounding region.
Growth Dimensions Board of Directors
Robert Opperman (President) · Michael St. John (Vice President) · Kristina Govern (Secretary) · Michael Goelitz (Treasurer) · David Anspaugh · Dex Battista · Matt Branom · Conor Brown · Gina Caronna · Michael Dunn, Jr. · Dany Eldik · Susan Fagan · Sherry Giescke · Amy Nord · Dr. Michael Greenlee · Scott Greenlee · Mick Gronewold · Tom Hutchinson · Chairman Karl Johnson · Mayor Clinton Morris · Paul Nolley · Amy Ohlsen · Dr. Bernie O’Malley · Jim Reynolds · Bill Robertson · Joan Sage · President Don Sattler · Dr. Cassandra Schug · Edward Sitar · Dr. Howard Spearman · Dr. Hansen Stewart · Richard Van Evera · John Wolf · Debbie Yunk
The board of directors and investors provide the support needed for Growth Dimensions to be economic influencers.
CREDIBILITY: A VALUABLE COMMODITY
When someone is asked to describe economic development, the typical response is, “An organization that sells the community.” However, economic developers do not see themselves as salesman. They are not accustomed to selling something that they cannot support. Their credibility is the most valuable commodity for the economic strength of their community.
Economic success in our region is dependent on everything and everyone to be in sync with one another. It takes land and buildings conducive to business needs, owners who understand the potential and challenges with their property, elected officials who foster a business-friendly environment where they listen to businesses, are responsive to their needs and provide quality services with the best return on investment for both the business and community. Economic success also relies on innovations in education and workforce that lead to a pipeline of skilled and work-ready labor force. It also takes reliable and efficient infrastructure, such as utilities, roads and broadband.
Growth Dimensions works closely with our partners at the local, regional and state levels to support infrastructure improvements, showcase innovations and foster solutions as a means of business attraction.
Some examples include creating a certified sites program along with Regional 1 Planning Council, working with the City of Belvidere to develop a solid plan for passenger rail, and promoting internet access with Broadband for All in North Central Illinois.
We also help market clean energy and cost-savings utility options and support road improvements to provide efficient and safe access to and from businesses and industries.
Success takes more than premier access to people and logistics. It is the economic developer’s role to see the community’s strengths and market our greatest assets, while being a catalyst for change. We do not settle for the status quo. Rather, we foster change leading towards an economically viable future.
An economic developer’s role does not end with a new project or pandemic. They step up to the challenge, in order to help their community and elevate the quality of life.
At Growth Dimensions Economic Development, we celebrate our successes and use what we have learned to set the bar that much higher for the future.
Speaking of successes, the Rock Valley College (RVC) Advance Technology Center’s (ATC) $11 Million investment was a welcome addition to the Boone County and the entire region, holding its first semester of courses in early 2022. Their programming is cutting-edge and will advance the skills of our workforce to meet the current and future needs of employers. This programing includes CNC Machining, Mechatronics, and Welding, with future expansion is provide Truck Driving, Industrial Maintenance and Forklift Operation.
The RVC Foundation also saw a surge in partnerships and resources in order to provide scholarship opportunities to area students in order to build a successful pipeline of skilled workers. As a result, more than 200 students will receive waivers to attend the ATC in 2022.
The ATC played another significant role in the past year. It was the designated site to welcome Governor Pritzker, Illinois Legislators and other dignitaries, as the Reimagining Electric Vehicles in Illinois bill was signed into law.
The Bill, signed into law on November 16, 2021, was a direct result of Growth Dimensions’ and its allies’ requests and persistence to make Illinois more competitive to keep manufacturing strong in Illinois.
While we celebrate our wins on a regional and state level, we are also able to celebrate wins at a county-level, because of continued collaboration with local partners.
CREATING A PIPELINE TO SUCCESS
Growth Dimensions is honored to work with our partners within Boone County to establish a pipeline to success. Along with Belvidere CUSD #100 and North Boone CUSD #200, Boone County was established as part of the Illinois Education & Career Success Network. This network focuses on building relationships with businesses and fostering those partnerships, allowing students to have experimental learning through onsite visits and internships, in order to develop workplace skills and gain industry-recognized credentials.
Over the past year, this collaboration has resulted in six internships in the manufacturing and automotive industries, leading to two permanent hires after high school.
Additionally, nearly 60 Belvidere students began welder training at the ATC and 13 Belvidere area students completed a CNA course, which provided high school graduates a well-paying, stable job after graduation.
We look forward to continuing this work with our local partners, having received the STAMP grant from the Illinois Manufacturer’s Association, which will help pay for 20 internships in manufacturing over the next two years.
With industry expanding in Boone County, creating an atmosphere where high school students can gain experience in the workforce and understand options and opportunities for their future is a welcomed asset that will provide success for our youth and businesses.
GENERAL MILLS DISTRIBUTION CENTER
One example of industry expanding in Boone County is the construction of a new warehouse and distribution center for General Mills.
This new facility will be 1.3 million square feet, expandable to 1.7 million square feet, in 111 acres at the intersection of Irene Road and U.S. Route 20, in Belvidere. This location will serve as a Midwest distribution hub for General Mills products. The state-of-the-art facility will utilize lean and productive technologies, such as autonomous guided vehicle material handling systems.
The warehouse and distribution center will accommodate 492 spaces for trailer parking and 226 vehicles, with provisions for electric vehicle charging. It will provide 55-75 permanent full-time, well-paying jobs, while utilizing approximately 500 construction jobs during construction.
It is estimated that the new General Mills facility will have a market value of more than $30 Million and will produce, roughly, $140,000 a year in City of Belvidere real estate taxes.
As a result of the General Mills project, there will be additional shovel-ready industrial and commercial lots available for development, also contributing to the tax base for the City and Boone County.
BOONE COUNTY EXPANSION PROJECTS
In addition to General Mills’ warehouse, Boone County is seeing an uptick in business expansions, renovations and new builds.
General Mills is adding a new sugar silo to support their ever-growing product line. Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) are installing a new product line, which will bring an estimated 55 new jobs. Crusader Community Health broke ground on a nearly 3,000 square foot addition and 1,000 square foot remodel on their existing Belvidere location. And, most recently, the Heidner Properties are making plans to build a new fuel center on Genoa Road, near US Route 20 and I-90. Their initial investment includes the fuel center, alone…and, they have even bigger plans for future development.
Boone County has also seen business investments from Kaman Industries, Hamblock Ford, RPS Products, CTEC Data Solutions, AT&T, 815 Healthy’s, Bark About It, Jimmy John’s, Taco Bell, Miles Bar & Grill, among others.
All of the projects started over the past year are estimated to bring investments in excess of $370 million to Boone County, Illinois.
COLLABORATION - SUCCESS
Collaboration is not new to Growth Dimensions. It is essential for successful implementation of services that leads to the greatest impact for businesses.
One example of collaboration was the formation of Forward Boone County, a partnership with community-based organizations, businesses, education, region planning, municipalities, health providers, and the health department, all working together to address the gaps in services and supporting our missions and priorities as one.
By working together, we were able to inform, educate and coordinate health practices during the COVID-19 pandemic. Boone County was ahead of other regions that struggled with their response to the public.
With Forward Boone County established, the community now has a collaborative platform it can rely on to help further local and regional opportunities moving forward.
BUSINESS OUTREACH AND ASSISTANCE
There has been fallout from the pandemic that has altered business challenges and how its changed business models, priorities and processes.
At Growth Dimensions Economic Development, we help company’s advance their business so they can succeed with the potential for growth.
This year, we partnered with the City of Belvidere to address challenges facing small businesses. This partnership qualified us for a grant from the NLC/Kauffman Foundation with guidance from Prospera – an economic development, nonprofit organization specialized in providing bilingual assistance to Hispanic entrepreneurs trying to establish or expand their business.
This grant allowed Growth Dimensions and the City of Belvidere to connect with business organizations who provide guidance and mentorships, along with access to financial resources and receive training. Collectively, we are committed to giving existing and aspiring businesses every chance they have to succeed.
We were also able to access the support of a bilingual expert, during the summer. With her help, we were able to evaluate our communications and those of partner organizations, as a means of improving business processes and clarity in our communications. With her assistance, we were also able to develop business materials for Spanish speakers.
We have also enhanced our marketing by using videos to educate and inform businesses. First was the Enterprise Zone which businesses can view the benefits of their investment and receive training and instruction on how to complete forms.
Along with the Boone County Health Department, we are creating videos for businesses with new or existing food establishments. The first, Food 101, will be available soon. All these videos will be available in English and Spanish.
In order to keep our Investors and community informed, Growth Dimensions started monthly e-Communications to highlight successes, services, and events and programs available to prospects, businesses and the public. Our two monthly e-Communications “Growing Together” and “Boone County in Focus” are distributed to more than 2,100 connections. These communications are sent via email and can also be found at https://www.growthdimensions.org/news-and-events.
Growth Dimensions continues to make a concerted effort to advertise digitally. Moving away from more traditional media, our focus is on digital banner ads, where we can more accurately gauge our return on investment and have a broader reach to prospects.
To further Boone County’s marketing reach, we are seeing success in geofencing largely-attended, industry-specific conferences throughout the United States. These geofencing campaigns have increased our website engagement up to 465%, in some instances.
Looking forward, our next goal is to find ways to identify visitors to the Growth Dimensions’ website, in order to discover their needs and provide solutions.
SUPPORT IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS
All of Boone County’s accomplishments, opportunities and successes are made possible by the support of our community leaders, organizations and businesses. Thank you to all who support Growth Dimensions and economic development in Boone County.