Economic development booming in Winnebago County

Several businesses have decided to open their newest location in the City of Rockford
Published: Jul. 23, 2021 at 6:03 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - The COVID-19 pandemic took its toll on several businesses, forcing them to close their doors. But now, business districts are making a comeback.

“As we’re coming out of COVID and the mitigations have been released, we’re really seeing these developments actually come to fruition,” said Rockford Director of Community and Economic Development, Karl Franzen.

Franzen says the forest city is booming with opportunity as several businesses have picked the 815 to open their newest locations.

“We’re all have this pent up demand to travel, spend money, you know, take advantage of reopen economy,” Franzen said. “Developers are doing the same thing.”

He says an increase in business means an increase in jobs for residents in the Rockford community. Marketing Coordinator for the First Midwest Group, Miralem Botic agrees this kind of development will be beneficial for the area.

“For everyone living in Rockford, it’s gonna bring more people into town, you know, those people are gonna spend more money locally to local businesses, which again it’s just a cycle of Rockford growing and redeveloping,” Botic said.

One local organization, focused on helping the community, finally has a space of their own. Jeremiah Development offers community access to resources, education and support. For years, Executive Director Sue Kanthak says they bounced around from building to building with no permanent location, making it hard for people in the community to find them. Now, with their own building in downtown Rockford, they are able to offer people childcare, a computer lab, and other services.

“We have a bigger presence in the neighborhood here than we’ve had because we were always inside another building and this is our own building,” Kanthak said. “You know, people can drive by and see who we are and where we’re at.”

The organization is taking advantage of the growth by bringing new life to a building that’s sat vacant in downtown for years.

“This can be a real flexible space, we can use it for classes we can use it for programming, we can show movies on the wall if we want to,” Kanthak said.

Franzen says this organization and many others flock to Rockford because of the opportunity.

“I think that people understand that Rockford is a real vibrant economy and that we’re, you know, have a lot more projects that are coming up,” Franzen said.

Most of these businesses are hoping to open by the end of the year, however, local leaders say regardless of the timeline, it’s still beneficial for the city of Rockford.

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