Bensenville Village President Frank Soto said the village has made "tremendous progress" in business development, infrastructure upgrades and resident services within the last year.
During his annual State of the Village speech on Tuesday at village hall, Soto told village officials and nearly 40 residents that Bensenville has achieved its successes by stabilizing finances and sharing resources with other government groups.
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"We are strong because we have cooperative, collaborative partnerships with all local government partners and we are working together as one community to make Bensenville the best possible place to raise a family and start a business," Soto said.
Soto noted a significant change in Bensenville's finances, which just three years ago had a $4 million budget shortfall. But he said the upcoming fiscal year should include a $3.3 million surplus, equaling a roughly $7.5 million recovery since 2009.
This was achieved partially by cutting village staff by 10 percent, while also reducing expenses.
Some cost-cutting measures included using conservation efforts and installing energy-saving fixtures to slash electric bills by $200,000, and consolidating 911 dispatch services with the Addison Police Department to save $160,000.
These changes, Soto said, earned several financial awards for Bensenville, including a renewal of its A+ bond rating from Standard & Poor's.
Village officials have also been working to attract businesses to Bensenville with a major revamp of its industrial park on the north side, which is slated to be finished this spring. The work aims to fix flooding issues, aging streets and other problems in the area, and Soto said the result has been increased applications for business licenses and an uptick in new leases in the last quarter of 2011.
Some major businesses settling or expanding in Bensenville include the Roesch Ford expansion, which took the group's second dealership in the village and settled it into a vacant Mitsubishi dealership in its Grand Avenue auto corridor. Village leaders also wooed Skychef, one of the leading airline caterers, into Bensenville when the group was looking to re-enter the Chicago are a market after a six-year absence, Soto said.
Other major changes coming to Bensenville include the $64 million grade separation to ease the bottleneck of Irving Park and York roads and the Canadian Pacific Railroad tracks.
"This intersection is one of the most congested and frustrating in the region … it has stifled business growth for decades," Soto said. "When this project is complete, it will offer new and international businesses intermodal connectivity for train, truck and air traffic."
Soto said another major regional upgrade -- the planned Elgin-O'Hare Western Bypass that will be built and managed by the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority -- will also increase business and quality of life.
"This project is a game-changer for Bensenville," Soto said, adding that he believes it will not only reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality, but will create 41,000 permanent new jobs.
But Bensenville residents will see more than traffic improvements and new jobs, Soto said.
The village has also taken steps to create local partnerships or secure grants that will upgrade life in Bensenville, such as creating a Neighborhood Stabilization Program. The program aims to keep residents facing foreclosure in their homes by connecting them with experts who offer free financial guidance, such as information on modifying loans and utilizing federal programs.
"The goal is to keep residents in their homes and increase property values in our neighborhoods," Soto said.
To combat the emerald ash borer, a insect that is destroying ash tree populations throughout Illinois, Bensenville leaders also secured a $10,000 Urban Restoration Grant that allows workers to replace trees affected by its damage.
Soto said a recent villagewide survey showed 79 percent of respondents agreed Bensenville is headed in the right direction, and the same percentage enjoyed programs like Music in the Park and Classic Car Nights. So to keep those popular events going for free or at low costs, Soto said, Bensenville is working to secure corporate sponsors.
"We continue to apply a business model to these programs," Soto said. "We are strong because we have worked to make you, the taxpayer, our customer. And we believe the customer comes first."