Spotlight on Freeport

By: Rebekah Baum
By: Rebekah Baum

Take a snapshot of Freeport today because a few years from now, it will look quite different. One of the most dramatic changes we'll see downtown is the rehab of the WT Rawleigh Building, a 650,000 square foot goliath that will house just about everything...retail, residential and commercial.

"Essentially turning it into a focal point of the community, rather than just rennovating one building. They have the desire to make that the new heart of the downtown--a place that will have parks, bandshells, retail and restaurants," says Robert Skurla, Executive Director of the Freeport Area Economic Development Foundation.

Jobs, jobs and more jobs. That's what the Mill Race Crossing area will be breeding. Hog processor, Trimrite, will set up shop on 140 of the 5,000 acres.

"We've finally dug our heels in and found that through proactive planning, aggressive economic development and implementation of a number of tools, we've found a way to begin pushing forward again," says Stephenson County Board Chairman John Blum.

Stephenson County Board Chairman John Blum wants Mill Race Crossing to be made up of a group of complimentary, intertwined businesses and Blum says a biodiesel plant could be up in running within the year.

"The plan on the table is for a plant to be built that would produce 25 million gallons of biodiesel fuel a year. It will be possibly the first large scale biodiesel plant in the state of Illinois," says Blum.

Hand in hand with commercial development comes residential as well. Robert Skurla says Developer Lake Show Investors, the same group on the Rawleigh Building, wants to build a new neighborhood on Rt 75 and Bypass 20 on up to 15,000 acres of land. The first project is an eleven million dollar supported living facility that will create up to 50 jobs. Stephenson county leaders say Freeport has a new momentum...and the best is yet to come.

Freeport leaders say one of the major keys to continued growth is the expansion of US 20 to 4 lanes from Freeport to Galena. Skurla says right now Freeport is at the end of a long driveway from Rockford but four lanes could increase traffic 300 to 500 percent...


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