In less than 12 months the mayor and city manager of Pontiac, Illinois flew to Oklahoma, evaluated an Oakland/Pontiac collection of cars, research materials, and historic promotional materials, negotiated its acquisition, rallied the community to support the endeavor and assist with the renovation of an historic building, and opened a stunning museum across from the courthouse. This and other transformative projects were launched and brought to fruition in the midst of a major national recession, and at a time when the city’s leading employer was closing. Leadership is an amazing thing.
The Pontiac/Oakland Museum is fascinating and very well designed. And, of course, it is also a destination for legions of Route 66 and automotive enthusiasts.
This morning, last day for the 7th annual Miles of Possibility Conference in Pontiac, Illinois a riveting panel discussion with the former mayor, city manager and the retired tourism director chronicled the amazing transformation of the city’s historic business district. The demonstrable increase in tourism related revenue for the city was stunning. The discussion also highlighted the resultant diverse and dynamic economic growth that resulted from that revitalization.
Today it is not just the Pontiac Museum that is a destination. The entire village is a destination with an international reputation. And, increasingly, it is a destination for new companies and other businesses. Incredibly this town with a population of just 12,000 people has had a Hampton Inn and Best Western motel complex open, and another major hotel is in the planning stage.
The colorful murals, the eclectic shops and museums, and diverse array of restaurants, bars, and coffee shops make it a place that is hard to leave. If I had one complaint about Pontiac it would be that is in Illinois, and I don’t do winter. I am a desert rat.
My presentation on the importance of cooperative grassroots partnerships highlighted examples in various Route 66 communities with an emphasis on Kingman and projects such as the narrated self-guided historic district walking tour developed by Kingman Main Street. And even though it was the closing program, the Q & A session indicated that I ignited a few imaginations.
Tomorrow the Heartland Tour sponsored in part by the City of Tucumcari and the Route 66 Association of Kingman Arizona continues with a drive to Cuba, Missouri for a visit with an old friend, and a fact-finding tour. We will miss Pontiac, the superb meals at Baby Bulls restaurant, the friendly people, and the village that is chock full of colorful surprises. But is time to roll west, get back home, and get back to work.