City council passes Barber-Colman development agreement

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The Barber-Colman campus has been vacant for decades.

At Monday’s city council meeting, aldermen approved an agreement to begin the renovation process. City leaders say the property is the perfect place to build a industrial training campus.

The City of Rockford along with the South Main Shopping Center and Rock Valley College seek to build an advanced technology center. They say the large project is crucial to fill the skills gap the region’s workforce is experiencing.

“We really need to respond to the needs of our industry to provide that education,” said RVC Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Jim Ryan. “It’s something we’ve had but we really need to expand it.”

Last year, Rockford City Council approved a $3.2 million contribution for the project.

“Portions of the funding is through our capital improvement program for public infrastructure,” said Rockford city administrator Todd Cagnoni. “I understand a portion of what we’re rehabilitating is public infrastructure.”

City leaders estimate the project will cost $32.3 million.

Winnebago County is matching the city’s $3.2 million commitment and Rock Valley College is contributing $9.2 million.

In addition, the project received a $1.2 million grant from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) and a $2.2 million grant from the Economic Development Administration (EDA).

That leaves the project short by more than $13 million and to make up the difference, more federal tax dollars will be needed.

“[Those raised funds] allows us to leverage,” said Cagnoni. “[We can] go after historic tax credits and new market tax credits so this project can come to fruition.”

Ryan says their institution has set money aside in their capital fund for the new campus.

“It’s been a difficult budgetary process the last few years,” explained Ryan. “Now, with state funding starting to come back, we’re able to do more capital projects.”

City leaders say the next step will be to seek that federal tax money. After, they will start to look for an architect and engineering firms to calculate the final cost of the project.

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