Mercy executive to lead ARISE fundraising campaign

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Jim Dayton
Thursday, July 13, 2017

JANESVILLE—Kelli Cameron believes local businesses and private donors have an important role to play in the city's downtown revitalization.

“A lot of organizations use a strategic planning process,” she said. “But if nobody's pushing it, then it's just a plan, and nothing ever gets done.”

Mercyhealth will loan Cameron, the medical corporation's recruitment director, to lead community fundraising for nonprofit organization AriseNow. She will spend up to 18 months in the half-time leadership position.

AriseNow is a public and private partnership that will raise money for Janesville's downtown ARISE plan. While the city is funding the project's baseline, AriseNow hopes to pay for amenities such as a pedestrian bridge and upgraded lighting the city wouldn't have otherwise paid for, Janesville Public Works Director Paul Woodard said.

Some of the pieces are already under construction, such as the interactive fountain. Others are concepts without specific timelines, such as an amphitheater between Hedberg Public Library and the Janesville Performing Arts Center, Cameron said.

Conceptual ideas should become reality once more money rolls in.

And there's plenty of money to be raised—AriseNow has a funding goal of $10 million. It's ambitious but realistic, Cameron said.

“Janesville is an amazing community,” she said. “There's so much positive momentum when you look at new businesses coming to town. People have a vested interest in our community.”

Cameron was raised in Rock County and spent time living in other parts of the United States and outside the United States. Those experiences helped her appreciate Janesville as a great place to work and raise a family when she returned seven years ago, she said.

Cameron has had a finger on Janesville's pulse since coming back. She was the executive director of Rotary Gardens, led a fundraising campaign for Blackhawk Technical College and has now spent the last two years at Mercyhealth recruiting physicians and nurses, she said.

She lives downtown, too, placing her in the middle of action and allowing her to see gradual changes in the area, she said.

Cameron trumpeted Mercyhealth's decision to loan her to AriseNow on a part-time basis.

“Mercy has a vested interest. If ARISE succeeds, if the redevelopment of downtown Janesville succeeds, then more people are going to want to live here and work here,” she said. “The same goes for any place in our community … They can retain their employees better if this is a great community to live.”

Cameron hopes other businesses and residents follow Mercyhealth's lead and contribute what they can to downtown. Woodard said the more people helping the revitalization efforts, the better.

"We are happy to support the ARISE project by sharing Kelli part time as our contribution to helping move the downtown development effort forward," Mercyhealth Vice President Barb Bortner wrote in an email to The Gazette. "We are very excited about the plans to strengthen and enhance Janesville's downtown. A strong and vivacious downtown community will help with Mercyhealth's growth in recruiting and retaining physicians and employee partners to our community which is great for everyone."

AriseNow formed in December 2013. Now that the organization has "dotted its i's and crossed its t's," it was ready to bring Cameron on, she said.

AriseNow comprises five local business leaders—John Beckord of Forward Janesville, Nick Gilbertson of Blain Supply, Oakleigh Ryan of Whiton House, Larry Squire of Johnson Bank and Tim Weber of Webco.

Cameron believes the organization's fundraising campaign will spark tourism and give businesses more reason to locate here.

Leveraging a revamped downtown with existing Janesville assets such as Rotary Gardens and Rock Aqua Jays water ski shows will convince visitors to stay, she said.

“Downtowns are vital,” Cameron said. “(People) want to get out and about, have active public places, have opportunities where they can work, shop, dine, relax and get exercise all in one location.

“A downtown area is perfect to support those needs. It's a vital way as we compete for businesses from a broader economic development perspective.”

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