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Year in Review 2014: Southwestern Illinois

New jobs at Phillips 66 lead successful year in the River Bend

    The RiverBend Growth Association enjoyed another strong year in 2014, and several members had improvements that benefitted the whole region.
    Jack Schmitt Chevrolet moved into its new facilities on Illinois Route 143 in Wood River; Andy’s Tire and Auto Supercenter renovated and moved into the former Federico dealership site, also on 143 (Edwardsville Road); and Phillips 66 Wood River Refinery added 100 new permanent jobs to its workforce in Roxana. When the refinery does well, so does the community, says Monica Bristow, the RBGA’s president.
    “There are so many companies and organizations that they support, from contractors to restaurants to churches,” Bristow said. It’s not just what they do in business but what they do in the community. They’re a great corporate citizen.”
    At the end of the year, the RBGA, in conjunction with the Southwestern Illinois Employers Association, submitted an application for an Illinois Enterprise Zone. The River Bend Enterprise Zone was one of the original zones designated by the state in the mid-1980s. Those zones had a shelf-life and are set to expire soon. If those areas want to continue to enjoy the zone’s benefits, they have to apply and compete against other areas that are hoping to renew their zones as well as other areas that are hoping to achieve zone status for the first time. The deadline for filing was the end of the year and Bristow said she expects there will be more than 100 applications for about 50 available slots.
    At 600 members, the RBGA is one of the largest chambers of commerce in the St. Louis metropolitan area and it spans the area from Hartford to Grafton. The RBGA works to promote the area, support existing businesses and attract new business and development to the River Bend. In that vein it works to garner positive press and draw attention to the businesses of the area; works with the area’s mayors and advocates River Bend issues to state government; markets the area to the outside world and provides networking opportunities for local businesses; and organizes events to educate and inform business owners on a variety of issues.
    Bristow said she is looking forward to 2015 with anticipation. The city of Alton owns property on the riverfront that is ripe for development of a hotel, she said. A recently completed market analysis determined that Alton could support a 110-room hotel and the city is actively seeking a developer for the project. Similarly, the Village of Godfrey is pursuing development of a hotel near the intersection of Illinois 255 and U.S. 67, according to Bristow.
    And, the RBGA is looking forward to Bike MS, a fund-raising bike ride that is coming to the River Bend for the first time in September 2015. It’s expected to draw thousands of cyclists for the two-day event and have a strong economic impact on the area.