Recent News

Belvidere’s Paint on State breaks another record

BELVIDERE — The City of Murals’ largest-ever piece of public art was created by festivalgoers this weekend, and even before the temporary paint washes away, plans are being drawn to make it even bigger next year.

The Boone County Arts Council is considering expanding its Paint on State activity after another sellout, record-breaking event during the Heritage Days festival.

People painted 752 squares stretching for several blocks on Saturday. That compared to 544 in 2016 and 224 in 2015.

“It was just an all-around exciting feel-good day for seeing art in the community and seeing so many people involved,” said Lauren Hart, a Boone County Arts Council board member. “If the city is willing to paint them, we’re willing to sell them.”

Participants painted all types of things during Saturday’s Paint on State. Traces of their creations are expected to last on the street for about a month.

The council created Paint on State for the 2015 Heritage Days festival. Organizers took inspiration from discussions about chalk and community art.

For $5, participants are given a bag of paint supplies including paint brushes, a paint tray and water cup.

“If you run out of paint, you can go to the paint refill table,” Hart said.

The council this year offered an online purchase option and was able to sell 300 squares before the festival.

Paint on State proceeds go toward supplies, scholarships and the local Fifth Grade Arts Festival, Hart said.

Susan Vela: 815-987-1392;; @susanvela

Poplar Grove could grow again if newly elected officials’ plans take hold

By Susan Vela
Staff writer Rockford Register Star

POPLAR GROVE — They won voters’ confidence in April, and now they’re planning to spur residential growth in this community of 5,000 people that was on the upswing before the Great Recession started in late 2007.

Village President Owen Costanza is leading the charge with new trustees Sophia Ramdass, Eric Miller and Erin Walsh, and Clerk Karri Anderberg.

They have amped up the village’s social media presence, rezoned residential property for commercial purposes along Illinois 76, set aside about $15,000 for a new park in the West Grove subdivision and aggressively started remarketing the community as “A Great Place to Call Home.”

They also plan to install new welcome signs, and they’re devoting themselves to speaking highly of their village.

“It’s just getting out there, walking that path and knocking on doors,” said Ramdass, who is handling much of the marketing. “Now, it’s just a matter of communicating with the other communities. I look at small steps as being a step.”

Poplar Grove was moving beyond its farming village reputation and catching the attention of homebuilders before the housing bubble burst. Several proposed subdivisions never got built. Existing developments have hundreds of lots available. There also are undeveloped lots.

The American Census counted 5,023 residents in 2010, up from 1,368 in 2000. Plans called for even more growth.

Poplar Grove’s sewer and water system is capable of supporting 15,000 customers. Yet it only has 1,400.

“We took the philosophy of ‘if we build it, they will come,’” Costanza said. “They were. Then it stopped. So now what do we do? … We still have the same infrastructure to maintain. We don’t have the people and the revenue to sustain that.”

Ramdass and other village officials attended the June 17 Neighbors’ Fest at Lions Park, talking to anyone they could about their village.

The village had marketed the event with fliers and media releases to bring in residents from outside Poplar Grove. Families visiting Lions Park for baseball games lingered to enjoy the festival’s food, vendors, and games for children.

“It’s an all-in-one great community,” said Caitlin Stender, who moved to Poplar Grove from Rockford years ago. “It’s quaint. It’s small. But everyone here is friendly.”

Leaders also have been discussing creating new committees to improve communications in coordinating events the village is involved in, including Neighbors’ Fest, North Boone Fire District Neighbors Night Street Dance and Boone County Fair.

“We’ll be looking for residents to sit on those committees,” Miller said.

Pamela Lopez-Fettes is the new executive director of Growth Dimensions, a public-private organization trying to ignite economic development throughout the region. She said trustees could help draw more people to Poplar Grove through enterprise zones that offers tax breaks to developers. They also could build on the village’s reputation for affordable housing and being home to the Poplar Grove Airport.

“They have a lot to offer,” Lopez-Fettes said.

Village Administrator Diana Dykstra, who painted children’s faces at Neighbors’ Fest, said “a lot of people just don’t know that we exist.”

“We are that great place to live,” she said. “It’s comfortable enough to still be a small town and yet close enough to shop in Belvidere and to shop in Rockford and Machesney.

“You may not work here. But pretty soon we hope you’ll live here,” Dykstra said.

Susan Vela: 815-987-1392;


Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Supplier Symposium

Congressman Adam Kinzinger Invites You To Attend Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ May 12 Supplier Symposium

 Hosted by Congressman Adam Kinzinger, U.S. House of Representatives 16th Congressional District of Illinois

You are invited to participate in this upcoming symposium to learn about  the potential to become a supplier and/or partner. 

 On behalf of Congressman Adam Kinzinger with partners Growth Dimensions and the Rockford Area Economic Development Council.

FCA Supplier Symposium │ Friday, May 12, 2017

7:30 am – 12:30 pm

Giovanni’s Restaurant & Convention Center

610 N. Bell School Road, Rockford IL

 This event is an opportunity for regional businesses to review a targeted invitation for suppliers and partners who fit into the supply chain areas of interests of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and five FCA tier-one local suppliers; Dearborn Mid-West Company, Magna Exteriors, Piston Group, Yanfeng, and Brose.



7:30 a.m. – 8:00 a.m.

Check-In and Continental Breakfast 

8:00 a.m. – 8:15 a.m.

Welcome and Remarks by Congressman Adam Kinzinger

 8:15 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.

Presentation by FCA and Individual Presentations by FCA Tier-One Suppliers

 9:30 am – 12:30 pm

Individual 10-minute Matchmaking Meetings with FCA and Tier-One Representatives

 Those organizations interested in participating in the matchmaking portion of this supplier symposium will be pre-screened and must be affiliated with one of the services, products or identified areas of interest below: 

 Autonomy (ADAS), Infotainment, Features, Light weighting, general services, facilities, IT, Transportation, Fasteners, Facilities/Contractors, Assembly Equipment Integrators, value-add assembly, logistics providers, metal fabricators, NMA (National Maintenance Agreement) signatory contractors: (Electrical, Piping, Concrete, Fire protection, Sheet metal, Electrical controls and programming, Steel Fabrication shops, and Structural steel providers), Engineering design and detailing, Sprockets, bearings, fasteners, and other power transmission components, Equipment calibration (e.g. gauge calibration), Local colleges or business that offer lean, 5S, Statistical Process Control (SPC), Six Sigma, etc., IT supplies (MRO), Stanley brand torque gun service, Cognex camera support and training, Fanuc robot training, PLC support (possible automotive integrator), Staffing agency for hourly temporary employees, Indirect Services (such as cleaning, facilities maintenance, sorting and containment, local utilities support, other services specific), Direct Material injection molding shops, paint, tooling shops / support.


Registration Requests are required by May 2 

To apply for participation in this symposium, please send:

  • Organizational name and web address, and contact name
  • applicable qualifies service(s) from list above, contact email address
  • phone number to

For questions, please contact: 

Growth Dimensions at 815.547.4252 or Rockford Area Economic Development Council at 815.987.8118


 In regard to manufacturing, Congressman Kinzinger states on his website:  

“Preserving our status as the world’s leading manufacturing economy is vital to maintaining a thriving middle class, a bright economic future, and our nation’s spirit of invention and innovation. As emerging economies create a more competitive global economy, the United States needs a renewed focus on preparing for a new manufacturing renaissance and a national manufacturing strategy that can get us there.”



Established in 1979, Growth Dimensions provides a progressive and cooperative environment which improves the quality of life by fostering economic opportunity and personal growth. With economic development partners throughout Belvidere-Boone County, Growth Dimensions is advancing a coordinated economic development strategy to create jobs, promote community assets and stimulate capital investment through business retention and attraction efforts.


The primary role of the Rockford Area Economic Development Council (RAEDC) is to collaboratively enhance wealth creation in the Rockford Region by helping employers retain and create quality jobs. The RAEDC works closely with many partners to learn what existing and new employers need to grow, and to serve as a one-stop resource for clients. The RAEDC seeks to improve the competitiveness of the region by taking what it learns from the region’s employers, and engaging the community in the daily work of economic development.


We thank our investors!