Greater Beloit remains well positioned to sustain momentum into 2019.
DOWNTOWN BELOIT - a place once marked by decay and vacant storefronts - has become a vibrant showplace, a foodie destination and home to dozens of eclectic specialty shops.
The community has become a destination, with hundreds of hotel rooms regularly filled as people visit for business and pleasure.
Companies continue to choose the Beloit area to locate new facilities, producing thousands of new jobs over the past few years. The unemployment rate for Greater Beloit is at low levels most never expected to see.
PART OF THAT is due to a long and unbroken rise in the economy since the calamitous plunge of 2008-2009. The Stateline Area, like the rest of America, has benefited from a long run of growth.
But give credit where it's due. Economic upturns before lifted much of the country and state while Beloit trailed badly.
Most of the community's renaissance has been home-grown. Yes, that included enormous contributions from the Hendricks family, which has chosen to invest sums of its considerable resources in both businesses and civic growth projects. But do not lose sight of the fact many other business people also have chosen to stay and grow here, joining the bootstrap effort to shift Beloit from a challenged community to a city that attracts developers and planners from elsewhere looking to duplicate these successes.
And it isn't all about developers and moneyed interests, either. The people deserve credit as well. Greater Beloit always has been a community with a big heart. Citizens by the thousands have gotten involved, working with civic improvement groups and nonprofit organizations to meet needs and build upon improvements. That's what it takes to sustain the momentum created, a broad buy-in from those who live here.
NO ONE IS SAYING the work is done and all is well. In fact, the accurate observation would be this: The work will never be done.
Any community - or, any business, or organization - that becomes satisfied and slacks off is, unwittingly, beginning the next cycle of decline. It takes enormous effort to rise - and it takes enormous effort to keep moving in that direction.
The Greater Beloit community still has big challenges. There's no need to list them. Our citizens know what they are.
The good news is that, as 2018 draws to a close and 2019 awaits, the community remains well positioned to continue its steady march forward. The regional economy is more diversified than it once was, which should help avoid or at least mitigate the boom-or-bust experiences that were more common when one or two big employers dominated the scene. There's still plenty of room to grow, and plenty of people determined to make that happen.
The future is never assured. It's what we make it. Seizing opportunities, though, has become a way of life here.
That should foster optimism for another good year.
A FINAL WORD: The proper response when politicians take credit for economic good times is laughter. Politicians do not create jobs or broad prosperity; businesses and people do. Politicians best contribute by not getting in the way. We say that as January brings divided political climates to Wisconsin, many other states and to Washington. Mind you, we're not taking sides for one party or the other. We are urging citizens to let their representatives know they're expected to represent our best interests by working together, not blowing up the positive climate in pursuit of mindless partisan warfare. Politicians may not be able to create a humming economy, but their blind power struggles certainly can undermine one. We hope elected officials in Madison and Washington remember it's supposed to be about us, not them.