Sauk Valley communities to benefit from economic planning grants

Plans will lead to additional funding opportunities

Cars pass through construction Wednesday, May 4, 2022 on East Lincolnway in Sterling.

The Sauk Valley area will receive economic planning grants to help with broadband, housing and capital development projects.

Earlier this week, Gov. JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity announced 42 grant recipients that will receive nearly $3.5 million in funding to accelerate local economic recovery initiatives.

The grants are through the Research in Illinois to Spur Economic Recovery, or RISE, program, to create or update economic plans to promote economic recovery. After the plans are created, DCEO will offer grantees a competitive grant opportunity to apply for funding for specific projects included in their plans. This program is funded by the American Rescue Plan Act.

“Cities, regions, towns and villages across Illinois understand the opportunities and needs of their own communities and the RISE program empowers them to collaborate and plan for improvements,” Pritzker said. “These grants will help communities craft economic development plans that reflect the specific impact of the pandemic on their region, with the opportunity to apply for funding to put the plans into action in the future.”

The projects have a focus on initiatives and investments that support recovery from the pandemic such as to reactivate commercial corridors, build more affordable housing or make investments that improve quality of life.

One of the grants was for $121,000 to the Blackhawk Hills Regional Council, a regional planning organization that engages in community and economic development, natural resources conservation, and planning in Carroll, Jo Daviess, Lee, Ogle, Stephenson and Whiteside counties.

The grant will be used to help at least six communities draft capital improvement plans, which typically span five years and prioritize infrastructure and other municipal projects, council Executive Director Dan Payette said.

“A new or updated CIP should help a community establish funding priorities and make strategic use of finite resources,” he said. “Moreover, a community will be in a better position to apply for infrastructure and equipment funding opportunities that require proof of planning prior to application.”

The organization will target individual municipalities in Carroll, Jo Daviess, Lee, Ogle, Stephenson and Whiteside counties through a request for proposals process.

The city of Savanna will be receiving $50,000 to help address housing problems and create a plan for rehabbing or demolishing blighted properties.

“There is a lot to be done,” Savanna Mayor Val Gunnarsson said. “Savanna is blessed with a long, incredible shoreline on one of the greatest rivers in the world and is surrounded by fabulous natural beauty. But those broken down structures are a drag on our economy and well-being.”

Another goal will be to increase apartment developments to provide more housing to attract entry-level employees at Thomson Prison, as well as improve buildings downtown, he said.

Ogle County will be receiving a $75,000 grant focused on broadband, employment and housing.

Ogle is partnering with Lee, Putnam and Boone counties as well as Syndeo to improve broadband access in rural communities.

The group wants to create a technologically advanced broadband network that is affordable, accessible, adaptable, and reliable; to leverage partnerships and resources across the region to support and expand network development; to serve and provide support for all the inclusive services for residents, education, businesses, agriculture, and tourism; and to incorporate scalable improvements that will enhance existing infrastructure and new developments

“The RISE program helps communities create meaningful plans that include tangible next steps tailored to their unique needs and opportunities,” DCEO Director Sylvia I. Garcia said. “These plans will help cities, towns and regions be competitive for additional funding to support projects outlined in the plans that will improve quality of life and economic development across Illinois.”

The RISE grants will reimburse awardees for costs associated with developing or updating an economic recovery plan, including salaries or contractual costs, research, outreach, and public meetings as well as expenses associated with administering the grant, such as meeting space rentals and printing.

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Rachel Rodgers

Rachel Rodgers

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