The Des Plaines City Council welcomed a new community and economic development director Monday.
Alexander Dambach joins the city staff after serving in several city planning positions in New Jersey. He was formerly the supervising planner for the city of Newark, director of planning, policy and development for the city of East Orange, and principal planner for the city of Paterson.
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Dambach said he has been studying and researching Des Plaines' economic challenges from afar but only moved into town within the past week.
"The number one challenge is the economy," Dambach said. "It's really just a matter of matching up what we have to offer in terms of properties and sites with businesses that want to develop (in town). We do have a lot of really good opportunities."
Dambach said the city needs to highlight its amenities, including its Metra train station, downtown, demographics and existing retail and manufacturing businesses.
"I'm going to focus primarily on the downtown area, which is primarily retail, and a few other shopping centers that need attention, and the corridors along Mannheim and Oakton roads, just strengthening that up," Dambach said.
Dambach said Des Plaines' downtown already has a strong retail presence and a promising lifestyle shopping center in Metropolitan Square.
"There aren't a lot of vacant storefronts downtown," he said. "We need to focus on the side streets and vacancies in Metropolitan Square. It's a good retail opportunity."