ROCK ISLAND – Gov. Rod Blagojevich today announced that his Opportunity Returns program is providing $200,000 in funding to the Rock Island Arsenal Development Group (RIADG) to support efforts to market the Arsenal as a viable business site and attract new tenants to its vacant industrial space, bringing new jobs to the community and major economic investment to the region. The Governor also reaffirmed his commitment to fighting relentlessly for the retention of the Rock Island Arsenal, helping ensure that the base stays off the federal government’s Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) list and that the nearly 6,000 thousand jobs it provides Northwest region residents will remain secure. The Arsenal also supports an additional 12,000 jobs and pumps more than $1.1 billion a year into the local economy. Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) Director Jack Lavin made the announcement with state and local officials today in Rock Island.
“While our troops continue to serve courageously on the frontlines in the Middle East, thousands of people on this island work diligently each day to provide vital support for their efforts. Today, the people of the region should know that the state is mobilizing its resources and committing to fully engage on two fronts: we’re investing in the economic potential of this facility and giving it greater capacity to attract new businesses and new jobs to the area, while we are aggressively communicating the message to Washington that the Rock Island Arsenal is critical to our nation’s security and must not only survive but also take on additional missions,” Gov. Blagojevich said.
The Rock Island Arsenal Development Group (RIADG) was formed in July of 2003 to market underutilized space and capacity of the Rock Island Arsenal. The Board of the RIADG includes mayors of the major Quad City municipalities and members of the Quad City Development Group Board. The RIADG functions as a business development corporation designed to create new employment opportunities and protect existing employment on the military facility.
“Gov. Blagojevich and I believe that we need to invest in our competitive strengths to give them all the tools they need to thrive and continue fostering economic growth. Providing this Opportunity Returns grant to the Rock Island Arsenal Development Group will help attract new businesses and new jobs to this area and is a wonderful example of that strategy in action,” State Senator Mike Jacobs (D-East Moline) said.
“Gov. Blagojevich understands the importance of the Rock Island Arsenal to both the economy of our region and the security of our country. He is working aggressively to ensure that one of our greatest assets will not only continue to exist, but act as a more dynamic engine of economic growth in our community,” State Rep. Patrick Verschoore (D-Rock Island) said.
“The Rock Island Arsenal holds so much untapped potential for commercial development and economic growth. Providing this grant is really a savvy investment by Gov. Blagojevich in our community because it will help bring in new defense contracting firms that will strengthen our military profile and increase the economic vitality of this area. This contribution by the State of Illinois, combined with a similar contribution from the State of Iowa, reflects the strong bi-state support for this important military installation,” Rock Island Mayor Mark Schwiebert said.
The Rock Island Arsenal operates on approximately 6.6 million square feet of total space. Of that, about one million square feet is designated for commercial use, including warehousing, manufacturing and administrative space. The goal for commercial development at the Arsenal is to have the RIADG be self-sufficient, with incoming lease revenue from existing tenants matching total operating costs. Opportunity Returns funds will play an essential role in marketing this space and increasing its occupancy.
“Opportunity Returns is about making the kinds of investments that are most important to the economic vitality of the region. Sometimes those investments are critical to retaining jobs, and other times they are needed to create jobs. Gov. Blagojevich’s commitment to the Rock Island Arsenal Development Group is crucial to both of these objectives. The Governor’s comprehensive strategy is working to ensure that the nearly 6,000 jobs at the Arsenal remain secure, while this funding will act as a vital business development tool, attracting new businesses and creating even more jobs for the local economy,” DCEO Director Jack Lavin said.
Gov. Blagojevich’s efforts to ensure the retention of the Arsenal is part of a larger, coordinated campaign to keep all Illinois bases open and off the BRAC list. Last week, the Governor signed Executive Order No. 2005-4 directing all State land-use planning agencies to coordinate with Illinois military installations in order to maintain and improve the bases’ immense military value. When land-use planning is coordinated with these military bases, it can provide key assistance in preserving available land for military readiness. The order ensures that when the Department of Defense comes to Illinois seeking to expand, the state stands ready and willing to meet its needs. He also recently discussed the Arsenal’s significant economic and national security contributions during a series of meetings with top Pentagon officials in Washington, DC.
Gov. Blagojevich’s Opportunity Returns regional economic development strategy is the most aggressive, comprehensive approach to creating jobs in Illinois’ history. Since a one-size-fits-all approach to economic development just doesn’t work, the Governor has divided the state into 10 regions – each with a regional team that is empowered and expected to rapidly respond to opportunities and challenges. Opportunity Returns is about tangible, specific actions to make each region more accessible, more marketable, more entrepreneurial and more attractive to businesses. It is about upgrading the skills of the local workforce, increasing the access to capital, opening new markets, improving infrastructure, and creating and retaining jobs. Opportunity Returns is about successfully partnering with companies and communities, both large and small, to help all of Illinois reach its economic potential.