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updated: 12/21/2012 9:40 AM

Lombard earmarks $50,000 for downtown organization

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Several issues have divided Lombard trustees over the past few months, but funding for a downtown promotion organization, Lombard Town Centre, is not one of them.

Trustees voted unanimously Thursday to give the group $50,000 to fund its executive director's salary, payroll taxes, rent and operating expenses in 2013.

Trustees Bill Ware and Keith Giagnorio, who voted against a $38,500 grant given to Lombard Town Centre in 2012, both congratulated the organization's board members, volunteers and executive director on bringing seven new businesses to the area this year.

Giagnorio, owner of his own small business in Lombard, Giagnorio's Pizza, said it takes a "leap of faith" for a shop to open in a suburban downtown.

"With your backing," he told Lombard Town Centre representatives, "I think it makes it a lot easier for them to make that leap."

The funding also will support promotional expenses, Lombard Town Centre's participation in community events such as Jinglebell Jubilee and other business education activities.

"We intend to host a minimum of four business education speakers" in 2013 on topics such as window displays and social media presence, Lombard Town Centre President Walter Smith said.

Businesses on or near St. Charles Road, Main Street and Park Avenue are becoming increasingly interested in such seminars, Smith said, and more of them are joining the Town Centre. Business membership increased 8 percent in 2012, so 21 of 83 downtown Lombard businesses are now part of the organization.

Ware, who last year questioned how long the village is going to keep funding Lombard Town Centre, saying "when is enough, enough?" on Thursday said the organization proved his concerns wrong.

"I did have my reservations. I still do about the long-term funding of it," Ware said. "But I believe you're on the right track."

The village has granted funding to Lombard Town Centre every year since the group formed in 2005, totaling $462,791 in eight years. Funding comes from a downtown tax increment financing district that is set to expire in 2023.

Colleen Whittington, Lombard Town Centre's publicity chairwoman, said the hair salon, deli, photography studio, graphic design firm, wine tasting bar, coffee shop and real estate firm that opened in downtown Lombard this year came as a result of combined efforts between village government and her organization -- efforts she hopes can be sustained.

"Last year during funding meetings, the question was asked 'When is enough, enough?'" Whittington said. "Never. The partnership was never meant to completely go away."

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