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ROAD TO RICHES: How Belvidere is Cashing in on I-90

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“It has the best of everything,” said Mayor Mike Chamberlain says of Belvidere, which is set along two major highways. A town of about 26,000, located along Interstate 90, Belvidere is a logistical gold mine.

“We’re just on the cusp of some amazing things happening here,” said Chamberlain.

“As companies are looking at areas to expand, they’re looking west of the City of Chicago,” explained Growth Dimensions executive director, Jarid Funderburg. “They’re looking at Belvidere.”

Fresh off a makeover – which included an expansion and revamped access to Genoa Road and Irene Road – I-90 is already paying off big for Belvidere.

“The ease of transportation is easier today than it’s been ever in the past, so we see that as being a very strong asset to the future development of Belvidere and the Belvidere region,” said Funderburg.

The Illinois State Toll Highway Authority estimates that during the first nine months of this year, 19,000 vehicles a day have traveled past Belvidere. That’s up 20% over the same period last year. All of the numbers add up to what Mayor Mike Chamberlain believes will translate into a financial boom for Belvidere.

“We have a logistics opportunity here for growth and economic development, but we have a perfect place to put it and that’s on U.S. 20, between U.S. 20 and 90 and [the Genoa and Irene Road] interchanges,” Chamberlain said.

Places like Sager Park, sandwiched between I90 and US 20, which Funderburg says is a shovel-ready site for light manufacturing.

“The accessibility of this place is unlike pretty much any other industrial park,” said Funderburg. I’s just one example of the town’s target area for development.

“This orange here is our enterprise zone,” said Funderburg as he pointed to the area between I-90 and U.S. 20 on his computer screen. It’s where Funderburg and Mayor Chamberlain envision not only business parks, but even a global commerce center which would provide offices for companies overseas and third party warehousing.

“Those sound like big plans,” said Mayor Chamberlain. “Never make small plans. Small plans are small plans.  You make a big plan and you make small steps to achieve (it).”

Chamberlain believes that executing big plans is possible with a regional approach, uniting seven stateline counties under a regional planning committee.

“All of a sudden, you have a big voice,” explained Chamberlain, “because outside of Chicago, a million people working on the same goals is something to reckon with.”

The I-39 Logistics Corridor Association shows there’s a lot of big projects going on in our region, like the Rock 39 Industrial Park in Cherry Valley, the Loves Park Corporate Center, and even business parks in both DeKalb and Sycamore.

But what about Rockford? The Rockford Area Economic Development Council (RAEDC) President Michael Nicholas says the Forest City is focused on projects in downtown, like the soon-to-be Sportscore complex, and the proposed Amerock hotel project.

“Downtown Rockford is an exciting place already, and is just going to get better,” said Nicholas, “and we need that to attract young talent to the area.”

But downtown Rockford is also a good twenty minutes from the Stateline’s fast growing, fast moving commercial corridor. While Mayor Chamberlain says he recognizes the importance of a strong downtown, and says there are plan’s to transform Belvidere’s as well, he feels development along I-90 will bring the riches to do other things as well.

“You can prioritize, but you have to be working on all the things, because you don’t know what’s going to happen first,” said Chamberlain.  He also believes the ‘Road to Riches’ will be good for the entire region, and his city is ready to step up.

“If people are not going to lead, then get out of our way, because we will.”

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