Morton EDC Board President Speaks at Plaza MeetingThursday, August 1, 2013
Comments by Morton EDC Board President Brad Braker
Village of Morton Town Hall Meeting to Discuss the Downtown Plaza
August 1, 2013 at Freedom Hall in Morton, IL
Good evening. I’m Brad Braker with JJ Braker and Sons, a proud, life-long Mortonite, a local business owner and employer, and the current President of the Board for the Morton Economic Development Council.
I joined the Board of the Morton EDC in 2007 because I am passionate about Morton. Because I believe that we must plan for our future. Because I want my children to be able to find good quality jobs in the Morton area and raise their families here.
Today I am here representing our Board of Directors, representing our Morton EDC Investors, and representing hundreds of our citizens who invested time and resources in the development of the Village’s Comprehensive Plan and Downtown Development Plan.
The Morton EDC’s Downtown Development Committee in partnership with our Village Trustees has worked tirelessly over the past two years to carry out the comprehensive plan created by our citizens. An extensive downtown study identified key projects that could help us move forward in our goal to make our downtown the vibrant heart of Morton once again. Central to those projects and most desired by our citizens is a Downtown Plaza.
Three goals were established for this project. First- it must have elements that will bring people of all ages downtown regularly. Second – it must beautify a dilapidated area and reconnect the buildings in our downtown. Third – it must provide infrastructure needed to support the many activities and events that take place in our downtown.
Two public surveys and two public meetings were held to gather citizen input on the Morton Downtown Plaza. Hundreds of comments were collected throughout the process. The final plan reflects that input. It is a project for our citizens, inspired by our citizens. It reflects a variety of perspectives and interests. It meets all of the established goals. It is a lifelong legacy project for the Village of Morton.
Frank Douglas once said, “if there is no struggle, there is no progress.” Well this project has certainly spurred both struggle and debate.
Some say we can’t afford to build the Downtown Plaza. But we absolutely can. Morton has a designated fund for this type of project, our Business District Fund. Along with private fund raising and grant dollars, this fund can support the construction and maintenance of the Downtown Plaza without any property tax dollars. The fund will have enough to support the construction of the Downtown Plaza by the Spring of 2015. We are so fortunate to not only have the designated funding for the Downtown Plaza, but to have a team of volunteers willing to raise over $1 M in private investment to make this project a reality for our Village.
Some say the Downtown Plaza won’t really change anything in our downtown. And yet it already has. Two of our newer businesses made a decision to locate in the downtown because of the Downtown Plaza. Firehouse Pizza and Leaves N Beans chose a location in our downtown in part because of the exciting new development plan. How many other new businesses will choose locations here because of our progress? Because of this project? How many new retail shops and restaurants will contribute property and sales tax, create new jobs, and offer a better quality of place for our citizens because of this project?
Some say the Downtown Plaza should be scaled back to only include a small Memorial. But a memorial alone will not draw citizens of all ages to our downtown regularly. It will not boost our downtown economy. And, perhaps most important, it isn’t what our Veterans Memorial Committee wants. They want to be honored in a bustling downtown center, in a plaza with activities and events that are compelling to people of all ages. In a setting that will be the gathering place for our citizens and visitors.
Some say the state of the Illinois and US economy could create future financial obligations or shortages detrimental to the Village budget. We completely agree. And that is why this project will be built using funds the Village could NOT use for any other purpose but for the development of the business district along with private investment and grants. And when the Downtown Plaza generates new business and residential developments and new property and sales tax income, our Village will be stronger financially and better able to withstand the financial storms of our state and nation.
Some say nobody in Morton really wants a Downtown Plaza. This is perhaps the greatest misconception. The reality is that hundreds of votes and comments were collected about this project through two public surveys and two open meetings and the vast majority of those comments were in support of the Downtown Plaza.
Like most of you, Deb and I are putting dollars away for our retirement. We put a little in now to hopefully have a bigger return in the future. Morton also needs to make investments for the future. We have outstanding infrastructure because of our past investments. We have outstanding police and fire departments because of our past investments. It is time to make an investment in our downtown, in the Heart of our Village. For our citizens….and inspired by our citizens. Paid for by a designated fund and through private investment and grants. Paid for without ANY property tax dollars.
John F. Kennedy once said, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”
I urge you on behalf of the hundreds of Mortonites who made their voices clear during the development of our comprehensive plan. Who made their voices clear during the development of our downtown plan. Who made their voices clear during the development of this plaza plan.
Don’t miss the future.
Make an investment today for Morton’s tomorrow.
Please support the Downtown Plaza.