Hickory Grove, small businesses and the holiday season


I hope this column finds everything good with everyone following the Thanksgiving holiday.

Looking back over the past 30 days, since my last column, there are a lot of projects and accomplishments on the horizon for the City of Rochelle. Probably one of the most long-awaited projects is the razing of the Hickory Grove property.

There were nine bids received at the public bid opening, and the results varied quite a bit. The engineering firm and our staff reviewed each bid and decided on a recommendation to our city council. If the contractor is approved by the State of Illinois, due to our grant, the proposal should be presented for approval at the Dec. 13 city council meeting. The grant I alluded to is a Rebuild Illinois Grant that could cover up to 50 percent of the total project costs.

This is great news for Rochelle, as this will really enhance our northern gateway to the community. We have been approached by various investors that have interest in the shovel-ready site, however, step one is to complete the demo and all that relates to it.

I would also like to thank those that helped with the “Small Business” Saturday on Nov. 27. The small businesses in our community have always been the backbone of Rochelle. Over the past 24 months during the pandemic, we (as a city) attempted to do all we could within our power for all those that were deemed non-essential businesses, and I am very happy that the plan put in place early on by our very supportive city council kept our small stores alive.

We did direct stimulus payments as well as created a “shop local” program, which brought approximately 2.5 million dollars into the cash registers of local businesses.

We here in Rochelle have another part of our community that provided help to our businesses on a day-to-day basis during that time, and that is the Rochelle Chamber of Commerce. Tricia Herrera, executive director and her entire staff and board of directors provided guidance and assistance to everyone through the pandemic. The chamber offers many means of support, and if you have a business of any type, I would encourage you to investigate a membership and see the support available. That support during the pandemic proved to be a game changer.

Another chamber/community event on Friday, Dec. 3 is the Christmas walk downtown, the lighting of the Christmas tree by Santa and myself, marking the official beginning of our Christmas season.

Following the lighting of the tree, we will present the Rochelle Gratitude Award. There will be many activities throughout the downtown, including the live reindeer to see, pictures with Santa, and many deals throughout the small businesses.

I encourage you to not only stop by to check it out, but perhaps let them know how much you appreciate everyone being a large part of our community. There will be many activities throughout the weekend, and you may even get your kids (or anyone) pictures with Santa at the Flight Deck on Sunday.

As always, we all must remember that Rochelle has a lot to offer, and we all must embrace it, spread the word and support it. Until next time, I hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday season. Thank you for your support.

John Bearrows is the mayor of the City of Rochelle.

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