2010 GAMSA Semifinalist Pontiac, Illinois

It is evident that the Main Street Four Point Approach® has facilitated great change and spurred a new sense of pride in the Pontiac community. With P.R.O.U.D. providing opportunities and constant support, Pontiac's citizens are taking ownership of their town. Major advances have been made, as this small, rural Illinois town, has grown into a popular tourist attraction. The painting of 18 historic, wall-sized murals; the creation of a Museum Complex; and new, unique shopping and dining experiences have given residents and visitors a place they can truly enjoy on a daily basis. During this long and, often difficult, process, Pontiac has overcome many obstacles, including major flooding of the Vermilion River, which borders downtown; possible closing of the prison, which employees more than 600 people; the closing of major factories due to trying economic times; and tight city budgets that restrict money flowing to projects that have received support in the past. Success isn’t defined just by statistics and tangible transformations, however. Success is developing a sense of pride and passion so strong that significant economic and social advancements are inevitable.

The Numbers

Population: 12,000
Net number of new jobs: 488
Net number of new businesses: 235
Number of building rehabilitations: 118
Number of new buildings: 2
Vacancy rate when the program began: 15%
Vacancy rate today: 2%
Dollar amount of public investment: $8,500,000
Dollar amount of private investment: $12,000,000

In Their Own Words

Throughout the years, P.R.O.U.D. has worked diligently to improve downtown Pontiac economically and socially. Three of our major achievements include: (1) heritage tourism, (2) low vacancy rate with commitment to reinvestment and preservation, and (3) formation of the Museum Complex. Community support and team work allowed these projects to be completed and successful. Heritage tourism now defines our community and our downtown, as we have taken great pride in our past. We have turned our unique, historic attractions into a distinct, successful method to promote and attract both residents and visitors to our downtown. Recently, 18 historic murals depicting our heritage and culture were painted on our downtown buildings. Our low vacancy rate is a true testament to P.R.O.U.D.’s commitment to economic development. When P.RO.U.D. was founded in 1988, the downtown business district’s vacancy rate was a staggering 14.5 percent. Today, that rate has dropped to less than 2 percent. The Museum Complex has been one of downtown's most popular attractions. Because Pontiac is conveniently located along historic Route 66, we have successfully created a beautiful Route 66 Museum in a renovated, historic building in our downtown. In addition, we have the Route 66 “A Photo Journey” and the Livingston County War Museum. More than 2,000 international and national visitors tour the Museum Complex every month!