CAIRO (WSIL) -- The first round of grant funding for the multi-million dollar Port Project is expected by the end of this month, and the project has already attracted developers who are planning to bring new homes, grocery stores and a truck stop to the area within the next decade.
The State of Illinois designated $40 million to a public-private partnership to build the port infrastructure. The first $4 million in grant funding is set to arrive by mid-November.
State Senator Dale Fowler has been a key player in bringing this project to fruition and is excited for this next step.
"When 80-percent of all barge vessels in the entire nation, 80-percent flow by the city of Cairo," explains the republican lawmaker. "It's time we take advantage of that."
He's worked with multi-billion dollar companies, the surrounding states, and his own legislative branch for the the past three years to help make it the nation's hub for river-port transportation.
"This town has created even more nation-wide attention then it's ever had," says Fowler who emphasizes it's due to the growth set to take place
The River Port project is expected to create nearly 500 jobs and boost the local economy.
With river port transportation estimated to triple over the next ten years, Fowler says the confluences of the "great Mississippi and Ohio Rivers" is perfectly situated to take advantage of that economic growth.
"Right after the first of the year we hope to start breaking ground," says Fowler. "We can't wait to roll into Cairo with that heavy equipment and start clearing, and the first round of clearing will be approximately 150 acres."
The new River Port construction promises to create demand in Cairo for development of homes, gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants.
Developer Rondell Swope just cut the ribbon on a new Mexican restaurant he opened Saturday in downtown Cairo. He says it is just one part of his plans to build more businesses, and new homes, in the river city.
"I truly believe that housing is the key," says Swope to helping to revitalize the city.
His company, Horizon Developer Group, is working on plans to build around 230 homes in Cairo with both low-income rentals, and rent-to-own homes available.
Swope has personally invested in the community, now spending time between his home in Colorado and his new home his family bought in Cairo.
He says he is committed to being a part of the community and its future.
The plan is to have a model home constructed sometime in the beginning of the new year as the developer believes that without new housing, new businesses won't last.
"You can build a whole bunch of businesses here, and if nobody's here to live, you can't support them and they will all close down," Swope adds adds.
Cairo has struggled with development projects for years with residents weary after plans on improvements failed to surface. With the new River Port acting as a center-piece to the latest efforts, residents remain hopeful they will see their city, shine again.