The Canal Corridor Association, headquartered in LaSalle, Ill., has recaptured the past to build for the future, and a USDA Rural Development Business & Industry loan guarantee is helping them do it.
The Association commissioned construction of an 1854 replica canal boat to promote the historic value of the l &M Canal. The canal was an economic engine along a 96 mile span from Chicago to the Illinois River during the last half of the 19th century. It was the final link of an inland waterway between the Great Lakes and the Port of New Orleans that forever changed transportation and commerce in Illinois.
The Association does more than preserve and promote this part of history; it is reviving some of the economic impact the canal once had by running several related businesses in downtown LaSalle. The Association found its business niche by capitalizing on the canal’s rich heritage. Their mule-pulled canal boat ride, period-styled visitor center and a wonderful café attract visitors from a 100 mile radius and beyond.
While the cost of the boat was heavily underwritten with donations, several short term loans were crippling the Association’s cash flow. USDA Rural Development guaranteed a loan with an area lender to refinance the debt and help the Association’s tourism business remain a strong community and regional asset. We are helping LaSalle sustain and grow jobs and attract visitors from outside the area who also spend money at other local businesses. The success of this project has even broader implications as it adds to a regional effort to bring tourists to an area rich with natural, historical and cultural treasures.
This project is a perfect example of how USDA Rural Development partners with local leaders, including lending institutions, to respond to local needs. Our presence in the state through our local offices helps ensure that we invest taxpayer dollars in rural areas in ways that pay dividends in local job and economic growth. Our job is to make sure that small businesses in rural communities have access to capital, and with due diligence we can back the business of rural business.
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