Diane Hendricks can walk you to Beloit’s Ground Zero. The spot where she knew something had to be done because her adopted hometown was failing.

A combination hotel-condo-restaurant had opened downtown along the Rock River but the restaurant wasn’t cutting it. “The location was excellent but the service was terrible,” said Hendricks. “We bought the property and it became the nucleus for the rebirth of Beloit.”

Today downtown Beloit is thriving, and Hendricks has emerged as an important player in the travel industry – in Wisconsin and beyond. While the billionaire owner of ABC Supply Co. and conservative donor has yet to make waves in the international travel business, like Herb Kohler, her own vision is already having a positive impact in the Midwest.

It all started in Beloit. Instead of empty storefronts along Grand Avenue, downtown now has a fine arts incubator, the Beloit College bookstore, and its first sushi restaurant among a host of other new businesses within walking distance of the college. The positive additions have helped turn downtown Beloit into a destination instead of a detour.

“Refurbish and rebuild has been our mantra,” said Hendricks. “If we do this right, we can bring back both the personality and the history of the buildings which brings in tourists.” Judged through the prism of traveler spending, business is booming in Rock County. The state says tourists spent just over $221 million dollars in 2015, up nearly 9 percent from the year before. In fact, only two of the state’s 72 counties (Columbia and Fond du Lac) had larger spending increases. Read the full story here.