By Bob Balgemann


BELVIDERE – Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen will be coming to Boone County soon, searching for funding to help defray the cost of the proposed $40-million hangar project at Chicago Rockford International Airport.

He already has asked the village of Machesney Park and city of Loves Park for $400,000 each, to be paid in annual installments of $20,000 for the next 20 years.

And he told Machesney Park officials Feb. 17 that he soon would be making a similar request of the Boone County Board and city of Belvidere. Durand and Winnebago also are on his list of upcoming stops.

It’s all about partnerships, he said, and far-ranging benefits the hangar project will bring those outside of Rockford. The hope is AAR, one of the world’s largest aircraft maintenance companies, will locate at the Winnebago County airport.

The plan calls for construction of two 90,000-square-foot hangars with another 30,000 square feet of office and warehouse space.

It’s a cooperative effort with Rock Valley College (RVC) with the goal being to increase the number of graduates from 20 to 120 a year. Those completing the program would be making $45,000 to $50,000 a year.

While the airport and RVC both are located in Rockford, Christiansen said the benefits will be widespread and include Boone County and its municipalities.

Belvidere Mayor Mike Chamberlain said he would not comment on the chairman’s proposal until after it is presented to the city council.

Of partnerships and regionalism, he said, “Regionalism is the only sensible solution to economic development in today’s economic climate. For us to access federal money, the more citizens who will benefit the better chance we will have.”

Regionalism, he added, is the way local governments will be able to create jobs and finance infrastructure improvements in the future.

Support for regionalism

Boone County officials believe in the importance of regionalism. They, in particular county board Chairman Bob Walberg, are members of regional committees that link Boone with Winnebago County and its municipalities. They also attend countless regional meetings throughout the year.

But finding an extra $20,000 a year to help finance the Rockford airport project, at this particular time, would be difficult if not impossible.

The most recent challenge to confront the county is the potential loss of $900,000 in funding it receives from the state. That possibility was part of the budget address given Feb. 18 by newly elected Gov. Bruce Rauner.

He also noted that the lost revenue only would make up 3 percent of local governments’ total income.

To finance the hangar project, the airport would receive $15 million from the state, $10 million from Winnebago County and $8 million from the city of Rockford. The airport itself would be in for $5 million to $7 million.

Neither Machesney Park nor Loves Park has committed to the funding request. Machesney Park officials are expected to discuss it March 7, during a workshop on their 2015-16 budget.

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