The Mount Carroll Economic Development Group (MCEDG), working as the economic development arm of the city, is dedicated to helping our existing businesses and encouraging new businesses to consider, plan and move to Mount Carroll. We are all civic-minded volunteers.
When the Kraft Building was struck by lightning and caught fire, its demise seemed imminent. In light of the circumstances surrounding the building and the current owner at that time, the economic arm of the city took ownership to save the building from destruction. No other buyers that wanted to save the building came forward.
Being the cornerstone building and integral to the character of our downtown historic district and being in an ideal position to renovate and revive the building, the Community Development team undertook this monumental task. The Community Development team undertook financing, volunteerism, then became real estate holders.
During renovations we devised several ways to utilize the building. Several of those were by the late Lou Schau opening a coffee shop, letting vendors sell their goods, having open mic nights and other events and activities. It was a true community venture.
On Lou's passing there were now changes that needed to be made and the Community Development team found a business that seemed a perfect fit. We did all we could to assist this business and individual vendors; we wanted this business to succeed as much as the rest of the community.
Part of our assisting the new business was requesting a business plan to be put in place to assure success. This did not happen for a variety of reasons. As business improved and lease agreement changes were made to accommodate the business, specifically them taking control of the individual vendors.
Soon, with a drop in individual vendors and the drop in business, came the ultimate shutting down. The Community Development team was willing to work with the business, but without a plan, businesses usually fail. Being community members ourselves, this was just as upsetting to us as individuals.
The Kraft Building restoration and reopening by the Community Development team was always only meant to be temporary. Several potential new owners over the past two years have offered their ideas for business, but none ever presented a viable plan.
Others speculated, wanting to flip the building or possibly strip the building of features and tear the remaining down, without offering a plan nor any ideas for business and none offering any local jobs.
The new offer by the city is not a "bailout"; there are potential plans for the building. Part of the USDA grant the community development team received to fix the building up was to promise public space and access.
Selling the building to just anyone was and is not a viable option. The time has come for the building to be passed on to a more permanent owner that has the resources and abilities to make the building once more a community place.
We encourage community members concerned about the economic decisions being made to come be a part of the solution and volunteer your time, knowledge and efforts into making Mount Carroll a better place to live and visit. Rather than spreading inaccurate information and complaining, make a positive difference and be a part of the solution.
These decisions don't happen in a vacuum and as people age, have kids, grandchildren, illnesses and other reasons for not volunteering, those past volunteers need new people with fresh ideas and energy to follow in their footsteps and take a vision of our community to new places that make a greater difference. We are always looking for additional help.
Mount Carroll Economic Development Group (www.Mcedg.org)
Doug Sherf, president; Eina Schroeder, secretary-treasurer; Doug Bergren, Tracey Rein, Peg Paxton