New economic plan to help village

By Anthony Antoine |

Published 06/22 2014 06:45PM

Updated 06/24 2014 11:25AM

RANTOUL -- The mayor hopes a new marketing strategy will attract businesses to town. There’s a new Italian restaurant downtown and the Panseri family invested its life savings to open it.

Massimo Panseri says, “It’s always been a passion of my wife and finally we were able to realize her dream to open a restaurant.”

It’s been less than six months, but still there isn't much foot traffic in the area.

Panseri says, “Right now this season it's a little slow. It's the summer.”

No surprise. When the Chanute Air Force Base closed more than 20 years ago, thousands left town. It never fully recovered, but change could be on the horizon.

Mayor Charles Smith says, “It is an unorthodox way of going about it.”

He signed a three year deal with Retail Coach, a company out of Texas. It will find out why people are spending money outside Rantoul and bring those same attractions back to the village.

Mayor Smith says, “We’ve been making economic progress, but it’s been slow.”

Retail Coach will make presentations to national companies on Rantoul’s behalf, fulfilling a major part of the mayor's economic plan to develop around 160 acres on the west side of town.

Smith says, “Timing is perfect right now because the interest rates are down.”

The mayor is paying the company $100,000. Some would say that's a lot of money, but he thinks it's a small investment for the expected return.

He says, “I think it would be totally irresponsible if we didn't spend that money.”

It’s good for people who've already opened businesses there, like the Panseri’s.

“These people are showing faith in Rantoul and willing to put their money forth and invest and we want them to be successful,” says Smith.

Panseri says, “It would help the community and lots of other businesses that’s for sure.”

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