Center helps focus economic development vision
That’s the mission of Vision Beloit, a one-stop showroom of ideas and information that celebrated its grand opening Tuesday in the City Center Building, 500 Public Ave., Beloit.
Vision Beloit is the common marketing tool of four organizations with offices in the renovated building: Visit Beloit, the Greater Beloit Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Beloit Association and the Greater Beloit Economic Development Corp.
While each group has its own role in promoting the community, Vision Beloit is expected to be a driver of the city’s economic future and a reminder of Beloit’s successes.
Jim Fisher, president of Beloit 2020, said more than $1 million went into the demolition and rehabilitation of the building, which, at the corner of Public Avenue and Highway 51, was once the Beloit home of Wisconsin Power & Light. With an impressive rehabilitation that features exhibits, photos, maps and other points of information, Vision Beloit operates in about 6,500 square feet of that space.
Fisher said Vision Beloit will promote economic development in Beloit. But it also will promote the regions, including southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois.
“If a company comes to Beloit, fine,” he said. “But if it goes to Clinton, Milton or Janesville, that would be great, too.”
Fisher’s comment about Janesville caught the attention of Gov. Jim Doyle, who attended the grand opening.
“Now I know we’re actually making some real progress in viewing Wisconsin in a regional way,” Doyle quipped in reference to the longstanding rivalry between Beloit and Janesville.
“We have to get over old jurisdictions and boundaries and understand that we’re all in this together.”
Doyle said Beloit is in an important gateway to Wisconsin. It’s a major manufacturing center; it’s positioned well on transportation routes, and it has access to agriculture, which has fueled the city’s growth in the food-processing sector.
Fisher said Vision Beloit showcases the community’s successes and will be a springboard for future projects in Beloit and beyond.
“It’s all about economic development, growth and enhancement,” he said.
James Otterstein, Rock County’s economic development manager, said Vision Beloit will be an asset to the community and the region.
“It’s a wonderful environment where ideas and concepts can move into reality through a free flow of information,” he said. “With this, we can have everyone in one place—one-stop shopping—so people are hearing and seeing the same things.”
Because it’s insulated from government operations, Vision Beloit will be an attractive meeting place for economic development officials and potential investors, he said.
The idea for Vision Beloit is similar but much broader than the one that spurred the Janesville Design & Development Center in 2004. Janesville’s design center—created through a partnership of Forward Janesville, the city of Janesville and the Downtown Development Alliance—is to promote the revitalization of downtown Janesville.