A New Partnership May Foster Job Growth

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A new partnership is formed and a new era has begun in Freeport and Stephenson County. An intergovernmental agreement is expected to spark economic growth.

With the stroke of a pen, Freeport Mayor Jim Gitz signs on to the team effort to bring new development and new opportunity to the city and Stephenson County.

"This is a true win-win here," says Mayor Gitz.

The intergovernmental agreement sets up an economic development zone, 5,000 acres of land west of Kelly Springfield, north and south of U.S. 20.

It's county land, but the county lacks authority to set up tax incentives to lure business. They also need help with infrastructure. A partnership allows the city to help out, and in turn reap the benefits of growth and revenue.

"We have set up a level playing field which benefits both the city and the county," adds Gitz.

The deal required special state legislation. Rep. Jim Scacia was happy to lend a hand.

"We were able to create legislation and this is going to open up new doors. It's literally going to be an economic engine for Stephenson County," says Scacia.

The agreement was crucial for development on this property. Trim-Rite is eyeing this portion of the development zone for a pork processing plant and slaughterhouse. City and county leader say for any possible deal to be made, this partnership had to be forged.

"We did not have this opportunity before,” says county board chair John Blum.

With all the players now at the table, city and county leaders believe a corner has been turned and a future with endless possibilities lies ahead. The county board must approve the deal, and that's expected to happen at their next meeting in May.