Thursday, April 05, 2007

Booming Small Town

“We did a new census in 2005 because of all of the growth taking place. We grew from 8,000 in the 2000 census to almost 14,000.” Claude LeMere, head of economic development for the village of Antioch, IL was telling me about the incredible growth going on in this town just south of the WI border. Several major home builders (Pulte and Neuman) have developed 2,000+ home subdivisions and the big box retailers are starting to move in.

LeMere went on, “We’ve got a 200 acre industrial park on the east side of town about to break ground and 150 acres in new retail coming on. Our new Wal-Mart was one of the quickest stores to reach $100 million in sales. The new Menards opens in April and both Target and Kohls are also coming. The village has set some strict zoning requirements for these big boxes, which are drawing in shoppers regionally.

The downtown is a very picturesque one with tremendous potential coming from all of these new shoppers to Antioch. LeMere went on, “When I first came here we had a 45% vacancy in the downtown, but now its practically full.”

The downtown sports a new band shell, sledding hill, outdoor ice skating rink, walking trails and 10 restaurants. One of the larger stores is a 30,000 sf locally owned home décor store. When I asked its owner Don Marski about the impact of the new Wal-Mart, he replied, “It hasn’t affected us much at all. We’ve seen quite an impact of new customers from areas we haven’t traditionally seen before.”

Antioch has wonderful signs in their downtown area, some of the best that I’ve seen and a kiosk out by the big boxes to show the shops in their downtown area. Both are things that could and should be copied by other towns. They also take ¼ of the sales tax generated to help promote and assist their traditional downtown retailers.

Antioch is a wonderful town that is changing, hopefully for the better without losing its small town charm.

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