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By Dellaray Hileman
The Rastello Room filled with citizens of Calhoun County interested in making changes to Calhoun County’s approach on tourism on Wednesday, April 20, for the Calhoun County Economic Development informational meeting.
Presenting information about tourism and economic development were:
J.D. Lorton, Hardin Trustee
Cory Jobe, Ceo Great Rivers & Routes Tourism Bureau (GRRTB)
Patrick McGinnis, Executive Director for The Lower Illinois Valley Rural Prosperity Initiative
Dennis Wilmsmeyer, Executive Director of American Central Port District
Jobe started the meeting by stating, “We have a lot of things to offer travelers.”
He was able to explain the improvements they have seen in Alton due to the efforts of tourism.
“Our touring newsletter, that goes out to 3,000 tour operators across the country, has on the front a suggested itinerary that lists Calhoun County,” Jobe announced.
Jobe expressed the importance of working with GRRTB for different tourism campaign ideas. “I encourage you to work with us and seek out funding opportunities,” Jobe concluded.
Wilmsmeyer was able to jump in and explain what his company does and how that can be an asset to Calhoun County.
McGinnis shared his part in economic development and tourism, adding, “Making sure that, when we go to revitalize an area, we take advantage of regional planning.”
The panel opened the meeting for questions, Julie Godar of Northside Grocery was able to express her concerns.
“We have lost a lot of privately owned property in Hardin to IDNR, Corps of Engineers, and the State,” Godar said.
Her concerns included, “How do we bridge the private public barrier we are seeing in Hardin.”
The question was asked to the panel, “What is the vision for our riverfronts?” The recently formed Economic Development Committee offered an answer, and said that there are some plans, but it is dependent upon grant money. They also said that they think “everyone would like the riverfront to be nice for people to be able to walk and have picnic tables.”
Lorton shared his experience with the boaters and the effect they have on Grafton. “The loopers are a group of retired people that will stay in Grafton, and they patronize all of our businesses,” he said, adding that it is a huge benefit to their community.
“I can’t image we couldn’t attract new residents or visitors from St. Charles County if we had dependable ferry service,” McGinnis stated.
McGinnis went on to encourage citizens to “Be authentic, keep this place Calhoun County. But there are opportunities there that aren’t being taken advantage of.”
“What would be a good first step for us to take,” Patrick Simon asked the panel for input.
Dwight Reynolds of the Jacksonville USDA recommended, “Keep meetings going and develop groups. After two or three planning meetings, have a funding meeting where you present your plans to the funding agencies.”
McGinnis added further suggestion, stating, “You also want some type of peer review involved in the process.”
“It doesn’t happen overnight,” the panel concluded. Residents and business owners left the meeting feeling encouraged to better their community.