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Developer Earns Dealmaker Reputation

(RRStar, May 3, 2009, Alex Gary)- It’s hard to write anything new about Sunil Puri, president of First Rockford Group.


His name and face have appeared in the Register Star hundreds of times. In any given month, he’ll be asked to weigh in on politics, education, government and, of course, residential and commercial development.


But Puri, one of two inductees into the Northern Illinois Business Hall of Fame on May 13, is first and foremost a developer. Much of North Perryville Road was developed by First Rockford Group. He is finalizing plans for a major retail development along Illinois 173. Criticized sometimes for focusing too much on the east side of Rockford, Puri was a partner in the redevelopment of the William Brown Lofts in downtown Rockford, which remains the most significant residential redevelopment in that area.


“I’ve been thinking a lot about this honor and how it’s incumbent upon me, especially in this kind of economy, to do more,” Puri said. “We need everyone to be doing more.”


He also owns Volcano Falls off East Riverside Boulevard and Interstate 90 in Loves Park, the Radisson on East State Street in Rockford and is a minority partner in Road Ranger LLC, which has grown to more than 50 gasoline/grocery stores in the Midwest.


With so many deals going on, his lengthy list of political contributions — he is a dedicated Democrat — and his willingness to talk about projects he believes will hurt the area has made him a lightning rod for critics.


“I’m grateful for whatever acceptance I’ve gotten in this town,” said the India native, who came to the area to attend Rockford College in 1979 and never left. “I wouldn’t have gotten where I am today if it wasn’t for Rockford and the people in it that I’ve learned from.”


Rockford Chamber of Commerce President Einar Forsman said Puri, at the very least, has earned widespread respect.


“He has such an immediate grasp of a deal, the numbers involved, how they’ll work and the risks and rewards,” said Forsman, who was one of the judges for the hall of fame. “In terms of his influence, he has given generously to a lot of causes. And from an economic standpoint, he was among the first to really see the potential of the East State and Perryville areas and he has brought in a lot of retail into this area that is benefitting all taxpayers.”

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