OPINION: Keep The Wheels of Progress Turning

Negotiators have a chance to be builders or barriers. Choose wisely.

 

By Bill Barth – July 12, 2022

The old saying that one is either going forward or going backwards applies to
communities as well as companies and careers.

 

In recent years Beloit has been going forward, with the latest evidence set forth in
an annual report issued by City Hall. The report contains a litany of impressive
achievements ranging from the private sector to civic organizations to individual
residents.

 

There are the familiar projects, such as construction of the beautiful ABC Supply
Stadium along the riverfront in downtown Beloit. It’s a $35 million showplace that
attracts tens of thousands to Beloit over the season.

 

The report also cites construction of the Joel Barrett Stateline Boys and Girls Club
on Maple Avenue, the Lincoln Academy on Henry Avenue and projects within the
Gateway Business Park.

 

Perhaps most impressive, in an historic sense, is the robust growth in the city’s
housing stock. Housing construction was creeping toward 200 units in 2021. Folks
who monitor such things easily will recall many years when new housing units could
be counted on the fingers of one hand.

 

Robust demand has been driving the growth in residential housing, along with
strong appreciation in prices for existing homes. It’s been a long time since Beloit
could call itself a “hot market” for housing, but the term applies today.

 

That’s important for many reasons. It holds the promise of moving the city off its
relatively stalled population number, toward becoming a place where more people
want to live. It fills a need for more upscale housing to attract potential residents
who previously looked elsewhere, even after finding jobs in Beloit. It builds the tax
base and supports services. It puts a positive spin on the city’s reputation and
promotes pride.

 

Beloit’s residency figures have not kept pace with economic growth and that needs
to change. For example, the report notes the Gateway Business Park over the past 20
years has witnessed $264 million in investment and creation of 2,800 jobs. More
attractive housing options could be a catalyst to turning employment growth into
residents.

 

Those factors and more come into play with efforts to resolve differences between
the City of Beloit and the Town of Turtle over boundary issues. Keep in mind the
Gateway Business Park wouldn’t exist without previous successful efforts to
collaborate between the two jurisdictions.

 

There’s a clear record of what can happen when neighbors work together to
embrace the best interests of all parties. It’s possible to create necessary room to
grow while still respecting territorial integrity.

 

The kind of growth and success illustrated in the city’s report is but a chapter in a
broader story, one whose most pressing purpose is to provide opportunities for the
sons and daughters of tomorrow. Beloit and Turtle negotiators have a critical role in
making that happen.