What’s Local: ‘Blooming’ new program aimed at downtown businesses

By Jim Hagerty

DOWNTOWN — A new pilot program to encourage Rockford businesses to participate in further beautification efforts in the city is now underway.

The “Business is Blooming” campaign was launched as a partnership between the Rockford Area Convention & Visitor’s Bureau’s Forest City Beautiful program and area businesses. The program’s message is simple: If businesses take ownership of the community by beautifying their property, Rockford will be a more inviting place to live, conduct business and visit.

“We wanted to expand the Forest City Beautiful program,” RACVB Director of Marketing and Public Affairs Josh Albrecht said. “The pilot program reaches out to businesses who have already committed to beautifying the city on their own. And they have helped us recognize the public-private partnership.”

The program honored six Rockford businesses with inaugural Business is Blooming awards: Abreo, Community Foundation of Rockford, HolmstromKennedyPC, The Loc Shop, Prairie Street Brewing Co., and Woodfire Brick Oven Pizza. Albrecht said each recipient was recognized as a flagship Rockford business, after which the program is being patterned.

The 2018 award winners will be chosen among applicants from three downtown areas: The River District, Midtown District and the Coronado-Haskell Neighborhood. In subsequent years, Albrecht says the program will include all of Rockford, something leaders say will have a major impact on Rockford’s image, especially for those coming to the Forest City from other regions.

Launched in 2014,  Forest City Beautiful began as a landscaping effort that brought 75 planters and nine public sculptures downtown. In just three years, it has expanded to streetscapes, walkways, and host of other public areas. The program is a $500,000 collaboration between the Community Foundation, City of Rockford, RACVB and several nonprofit and business partners.

“They all believe that the center of our city, when vibrant and active, is also beautiful,” RACVB President and CEO John Groh said. “This encourages individuals and businesses to look around them to see what they can do to maintain their public space.”

The new program, Groh says, aims to share the responsibility and success of the Forest City Beautiful.

“Our staff, board and partners said, ‘This is important, but we really can’t do it alone.’ It was never [the bureau’s] aim to take full responsibility for beautifying this already beautiful city, but to encourage [others] by setting examples. It’s the right thing to do and it’s good for business.”

Business owners interested in entering the 2018 Business is Blooming Contest can register online.

Categories of applicants are determined by business type and number of employees. Judges will look for well-maintained landscaping, facades and hardscape and overall cleanliness.

First impressions are important, too. Businesses that make a strong overall first impression—those with a “wow” factor—are encouraged to apply.

Winners receive a trophy, a Forest City Beautiful “Business of Distinction” window cling and a business promo prize package. R.

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