Gov. Blagojevich has
directed the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic
Opportunity to continue leading the state's recovery efforts as part
of his Opportunity Returns economic development plan for the
Northwest region, his unique approach to attracting businesses and
"Even though this deadly act of nature took the lives of eight
people from this small community, their memories will always be with
those who loved and cherished them. As the healing process
continues, we are pleased to be able to provide Utica with the
financial support that will help it, and other communities in
LaSalle and Putnam County, continue the rebuilding process. Our hope
is to make this community whole once again by laying the foundation
for continued economic growth and prosperity. By working together on
these important projects, we are honoring those we lost here in
Utica," Gov. Blagojevich said.
"Governor Blagojevich and I are determined to continue helping
Utica and the surrounding communities that were profoundly impacted
by this natural disaster. These critical investments being unveiled
today from multiple state agencies are important steps in ensuring
that the economic recovery will move forward," said state Sen.
Patrick Welch, D-Peru.
"When natural disasters strike, we must do all that we can to
help those communities to not only recover but to rebuild. The
support that Governor Blagojevich is announcing today will go a long
way towards ensuring that Utica and the other affected areas will
successfully move beyond this tragedy," said state Rep. Frank
Mautino, D-Spring Valley.
The Illinois Emergency Management Agency will help local
government agencies in LaSalle and Putnam County with a number of
critical rebuilding projects. The storm destroyed a vast amount of
public infrastructure -- everything from schools to town halls. Gov.
Blagojevich worked with the Illinois General Assembly this spring to
add an additional $436,600 to the Illinois Emergency Management
Agency's fiscal 2005 budget to assist the area with recovery
expenses. An estimated $1.7 million from the Federal Emergency
Management Agency will also help rebuild government agencies damaged
by the storms. With the state's contribution, federal and state
assistance will total 94 percent of these projects.
There are nearly 80 projects in the two counties, including
repairs or restoration of schools in Putnam County Unit School
District 535 and Waltham Elementary School District 185 and the
village hall, township building and ambulance building in Utica.
"The tornado devastated many of the buildings that are critical
to these communities -- schools, village and township halls, and
fire and police departments," said William C. Burke, director of the
Illinois Emergency Management Agency. "With so many government
facilities damaged or destroyed, trying to find the money for the
non-federal share of these projects would be difficult, if not
impossible. We're pleased Governor Blagojevich is able lighten the
burden on these communities with these funds."
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The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is providing
more than $213,000 in emergency funding to Utica to aid the
community's rebuilding efforts. More than $50,000 will be used for
critical planning efforts, including a downtown improvement
plan and facade design, a tourism and economic development marketing
strategy, ordinance codification, and development of subdivision
regulations and signage. Additionally, more than $163,000 is being
provided to help make key infrastructure improvements, such as
lighting, landscaping, signage, street furniture, banners, kiosks,
sidewalk improvements, downtown parking facilities and other
"Governor Blagojevich understood that after this natural disaster
struck, the state had to provide a coordinated response that will
not only help Utica and the other communities get back up on their
feet but to thrive. Through Opportunity Returns, the governor is
making this happen," said Jack Lavin, director of the
Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
The Illinois Department of Transportation is doing a preliminary
study to reroute the section of Illinois 178 that currently travels
through downtown Utica. Presently, Illinois 178 has a number of
sharp curves through the town and is located in an area that was
severely damaged by the tornado. The Department of Transportation
has chosen a new route that would straighten the alignment and take
it west of downtown. The preliminary engineering is being done at a
cost of $360,000 and should be completed sometime next year.
"Rerouting Illinois 178 away from downtown Utica will help
alleviate congestion and make the road safer. Having a first-class
infrastructure is a key component of Governor Blagojevich's
Opportunity Returns program because this is a powerful tool in
attracting business and creating more jobs," said Department of
Transportation Secretary Timothy Martin.
The Opportunity Returns regional economic development plan
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 -- finding areas with common economic strengths and
needs and developing a plan with specific actions for each region.
This grass-roots effort for the Northwest region is the product of
significant outreach over several months with business, civic and
labor leaders, and elected officials. This plan is tailored to
deliver real results that local businesses will see, feel and,
hopefully, profit from.