Small Town Touts Information Highway

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Officials of the small farm town of Peotone, IL, believe a long-running controversy surrounding plans to build a 23,000-acre airport in their area has resulted in enough name recognition to justify a Web site aimed at developers and prospective residents.


For 10 years, state transportation officials have planned to build Chicago's third airport near the 2,947-person village of Peotone. The project is often referred to as the Peotone Airport.


Village trustee Dennis Baran believes that enough people search online using the keywords "Peotone" and "airport" to justify an online marketing effort.


"As long as these words are wedded for the present, we may as well make use of the situation," he said.


To debut the Web site -- slated to launch by the end of the month -- Baran wants to hold a kickoff or "click-on" meeting. Using a projector, the Web site will be displayed for residents.


The people of Peotone, and other key players such as the city of Chicago and the airline industry, have adamantly opposed the state's plan to build an international airport south of Chicago.


However, Peotone officials also believe they have been under a microscope. They are starting to see that as an opportunity, rather than the curse they once considered it.


The cornerstone of their marketing plan is a Web site that illustrates what Peotone has to offer developers, as well as potential new residents.


"Unless we're on the Web, we have no credibility," Baran told Peotone Chamber of Commerce members recently. "It is the way corporate America does business. The village is a business."


Baran, who recently announced his candidacy for mayor, also took it upon himself to purchase two domain names.


The Chamber of Commerce is already using Peotone.com. So Baran reserved the names Peotone.org and villageofpeotone.com.


The site will contain community demographics and a planning map depicting zoning for residential, commercial and industrial uses.


The map shows Peotone's location, just miles from Chicago along Interstate 57. An interchange exists but is presently void of business.


The Web site will include short descriptions of and links to some of the town's amenities, such as its 1872 windmill listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Peotone officials recognize that the challenge will be to hold on to prospective businesses long enough to close a deal.


"I don't want to raise unreasonable expectations about the Web site and our ability to market it," Baran said. "But who knows?"
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