Galesburg Leaders Look to Grow Population, Revenue - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Galesburg Leaders Look to Grow Population, Revenue

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Galesburg city leaders talked Monday afternoon about how to attract more families to the city, and with them, more tax dollars.

Officials got their first look at the city's budget forecast for next year at Monday's work session and they agree population growth is needed to reverse a rough trend.

Galesburg's population has fallen to about 32,000 people - down from 40,000 at its peak. And with that decrease, the city has seen a decrease in revenue, all while expenses continue to grow.

"If everything remains the same we have about a $1.3 million deficit for 2015," Galesburg Mayor John Pritchard said.

The meeting Monday was all about narrowing down budget priorities to change that.

Much of the discussion covered goals for economic development with new and existing businesses and for getting more people to move to the city and stay there.

"I cannot speak enough about the importance of that," said Steven Brody, executive director of the Galesburg Area Chamber of Commerce. "Economic development is critical for the lifeblood of a community."

"We are pretty unified on the goals. We are, I am certain, going to disagree on the solutions on some of them," Pritchard said.

Solutions brought up by city council members at this meeting run the gamut. Alderman Jeremy Karlin's suggestions, for example, include bringing in a mini-golf course, an ice rink, more ethnic restaurants, and a laser tag

"Those are the things that are on my list that I think could really make Galesburg an attractive place," said Karlin, who represents the city's 7th ward.

At least some city residents we talked to were excited about those ideas, saying those kinds of family-friendly amenities could go a long way toward attracting new residents - and new businesses - to the town.

"First impressions - they are lasting and they are very hard to overcome," Brody said.

That makes the physical attractiveness of the city, especially at its entrances, another big focus for many city leaders, as are branding and marketing efforts to make sure everyone sees all that Galesburg already has to offer.

"We need to be proud of our accomplishments. We need to be able to put that out all of our communications and let everybody know what is so great about Galesburg," Brody said.

"Their projects as far as rebuilding store fronts, they're very good with that," said Edward Sanchez, master instructor at Kuk Sool Won Martial Arts, which has been in business in Galesburg since 1988.

But, Sanchez says, to grow in the future the city needs to create more opportunities for youth. Many city leaders agreed with that idea at Monday's meeting.

"We need to grow the population of our city and if you are not moving forward, you are falling behind," Karlin said.

Of course, the real challenge now is actually putting any of the goals into practice.

City council and city staff will continue to hammer out the details of just how to do that as they continue to hammer out the details of next year's budget.

To help with achieving some of the Galesburg's goals, the city is doing away with its economic development department, and instead entering into a public-private partnership. The aim is to use the money Galesburg already sets aside for these kinds of projects more efficiently and more effectively.

 

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