Continuing to deliver on his commitment to grow the tourism industry and create more good jobs in Rockford, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich announced today a more than $125,000 Tourism Attraction Development Grant for Anderson Japanese Gardens, which is being administered by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s (DCEO) Bureau of Tourism.
The funds will be used to construct the first Visitor’s Center at the Gardens. Within the next three years, the new Visitor’s Center is projected to double attendance from 40,000 to 80,000, generate more than $15 million in additional revenue and create 24 new, full-time jobs. Illinois Bureau of Tourism Deputy Director Jan Kostner made the official announcement today with various state and local officials at Anderson Japanese Gardens.
“Tourism is thriving today in Rockford, and more and more people have taken notice of all the diverse attractions we have to offer in the Rock River Valley. By making this kind of investment to enhance a tremendous asset like the Anderson Japanese Gardens, we are going to attract even more visitors, who will spend more money and put more people to work,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
This new 15,500 square foot Visitors Center will serve as a gateway to the Gardens. The facility will include two levels with areas designated both to enhance the experience of those who come to tour the Gardens and to provide offices for the staff who manage and coordinate the programs that the organization offers.
“We are grateful to Gov. Blagojevich for his commitment to growing the tourism industry in a way that not only creates good jobs, but drives more visitors to Rockford. Through this grant, it will be more attractive for people from across the country to visit our city, which will make an important impact on the regional economy,” Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey said.
“We are grateful to Gov. Blagojevich and the Illinois Bureau of Tourism for funding this project that promises to make a huge impact in Rockford. The new Visitor's Center will not only enhance tourism to The Gardens, but to the entire area," said Anderson Japanese Gardens Executive Director Mary Jo Guglielmi.
“The tourism industry continues to grow in importance in the Illinois economy, and we’re always working to build on our successes to attract more local, national and international tourism across our state. Gov. Blagojevich will continue making these kinds of important investments that are making a difference in Rockford, adding more revenue to the local economy and helping create more good jobs,” DCEO Director Jack Lavin said.
In 2005, travel to Illinois directly accounted for more than 300,000 Illinois jobs, including more than 400 new jobs in 2005, that generated nearly $7.9 billion in payroll. The economic impact generated by travel spending in 2005 in Illinois grew to a record high $26.2 billion, an increase of 6.8 percent, generating $1.84 billion in state and local tax revenue, according to the Travel Industry Association of America. This added an additional $74.2 million in state and local taxes in 2005.
The expenditures made by travelers in Winnebago County in 2005 was nearly $266 million, which was up 7.4 percent from 2004.