Hennepin Looks For Better Way to Promote Community

With all the talk of the sale of the Arcelor Mittal steel mill in the media this week, the Hennepin board meeting was strangely quiet on the topic Wednesday night.

The topics of the night centered on how to promote Hennepin, both industrially and with tourism.

Board members discussed a new economic development organization and heard from a Heritage Corridor representative.

Economic Development

Mayor Kevin Coleman told the board about an economic development organization he has been involved with setting up for the past several months.

In April, Illinois Valley Area Chamber of Commerce helped to set up a committee to look into starting a separate organization dedicated to economic development in La Salle, Bureau and Putnam counties. There will be a 50/50 split between the public and private sector to fund the new organization, which will have a director and two assistants, as well as a board of directors comprised of people from both the public and private sector.

Coleman said rough figures put the village cost at $1.30 per resident, or $919 per year. The village of Hennepin currently pays around $3,000 for membership in IVAC.

Coleman and other members of the organizing committee have been visiting towns, cities and counties in the coverage area.

“Steve Warren is a representative of Ameren. He meets with governmental agencies,” Coleman said. “His thoughts are this area I’m talking about is one of the best industrial areas in the state. And Hennepin is number one.”

Coleman said the organization would give this area a huge voice to industry, and for lobbying downstate. Board member Quentin Buffington questioned how Hennepin would fare against bigger towns and cities in organization.

“What’s to say they aren’t going to secure the money where the larger dollars are coming in from the towns?” Buffington asked. “There is more money, more pull from the La Salle County area.”

Coleman answered that by saying what is good for one part of the group will be good for the entire group.

“It doesn’t matter where industry locates, people in Hennepin will benefit also,” Coleman said. “The major part of the population travel for work.”

Coleman said he believes everything will be in place by the summer. Board member Lynn Haage made a motion to verbally commit to join the new organization and was seconded by Buffington. It passed unanimously.

Heritage Corridor

Julie Johnson, executive director of Ottawa Visitors Center and the chairman of Heritage Corridor Convention and Visitors Bureau, talked to the board. The corridor spans the area from Hennepin to Chicago-Portage. The Heritage Corridor receives money from the state to help promote the corridor.

“We’re the tourism and advertising arm for your area,” Johnson said. Johnson said the bureau received a $1.9 million grant. The state will take the money back and give it to a different bureau if it is not matched by places in the corridor. The bureau has created advertising partnerships and wants to help to promote events in the Hennepin area.

“When someone sends us an event, we send it to over 120 tourism sites,” Johnson said.
Board Member Matt Dean volunteered to head the committee to find local events and work with Johnson to promote them.

Source: News Tribune