Forward Boone County ready to help businesses reopen

BELVIDERE, Ill. (WIFR) -- Boone County leaders are getting ready to reopen parts of their communities with a new initiative to guide small businesses.

Forward Boone County plans

"It seems like we took a step forward, and the light is there," says Village of Poplar Grove President Owen Costanza. "Our businesses are all going to face that they were told that it was unsafe to go to these places. We now have to win back our employees that we have a safe environment, we have a plan for them. We have to tell the consumer it's safe to do these things."

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker changed his phase three plans to include reopening restaurants for outdoor seating. "We are a community of small businesses, we are a community with a lot of taverns and small restaurants," says Belvidere Mayor Mike Chamberlain. "And the restaurant thing has really hurt a lot of people."

Boone County community partners teamed up with the health department to try and help ease that hurt.

"We look forward to moving into phase three," says Amanda Mehl of the Boone County Health Department. "We've had a strong Boone County leadership group meeting now for a handful of weeks."

The group called Forward Boone County created guidelines and identified resources for small businesses as they reopen. "They will be able to access a business checklist and try to self- assess if they are ready and if they will remain ready," says Pamela Lopez-Fettes, Growth Dimensions Economic Development Executive Director.

The site includes employee questionnaires and guidelines for different local sectors as they prepare. Chamberlain says a new Belivdere ordinance called the Sidewalk Cafe ordinance could now play a major role in revitalization.

"Everybody that has sidewalk space can do outdoor seating, and I'm going to bring some things to the council next week about expanding that," he says.