Lee County considering grant to further economic development efforts south of Rochelle

Full steam ahead. The worlds largest steam engine known as "Big Boy," No. 4014 enters Railroad park in Rochelle on Tuesday. The locomotive was built for Union Pacific Railroad in 1941. It was restored in 2016 and is now traveling across the United States in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad. The locomotive weights 1.2 million pounds and is 132 feet in length. The boiler holds 24,000 gallons of water. Only eight "Big Boy" locomotives are in existence and No. 4014 is the world's only operating "Big Boy" locomotive. (7-30-19)

DIXON – Lee County and Rochelle officials are looking into doing an economic development study that could help spur opportunities in the region.

For several years, the City of Rochelle and Greater Rochelle Economic Development Corp. have been investing millions of dollars building up infrastructure and expanding the city’s rail system south into Lee County, opening around 1,000 acres of land near Steward for new development.

Rochelle Economic Development Director Jason Anderson recently approached the county about a U.S. Economic Development Administration grant to develop a master plan for the area and address concerns from residents.

It would include looking at transportation conditions and trends. It will also examine workforce needs, engineering designs, and traffic routing and congestion.

“This area has Village of Steward and other rural Lee County residents concerned, and our hope is that a thorough process can produce a plan to mitigate concerns and find a successful development plan,” according to the funding request to the Lee County Board. “The project’s output will address many vital aspects of managing growth in and around the Northeast Lee County corner gradually becoming part of the City of Rochelle. Through this, we hope to continue to make our region more competitive for industrial expansion as we follow a deliberate planning process to get the best results.”

The Black Hawk Hills Regional Council would apply for the $250,000 grant, which requires a 50% local match. The Lee-Ogle Enterprise Zone board agreed to pay $50,000, and Lee County would cover the remaining $75,000.

The Lee County Board will vote Thursday whether to apply $75,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds toward the grant.

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Rachel Rodgers

Rachel Rodgers

Rachel Rodgers joined Sauk Valley Media in 2016 covering local government in Dixon and Lee County.