All three West Chicago mayoral hopefuls say it's no secret the city has a poor reputation when it comes to recruiting and retaining business.
The real secret, they told the Daily Herald editorial board, is how to reverse that image and help the city encourage business growth.
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Acting Mayor Ruben Pineda, 52, has only been in the position since May, but as a 15-year alderman he said he's been aggressive in trying to recruit new business through local grant programs and by continuously being in contact with city business leaders.
One of his opponents, fellow Alderman Nicholas Dzierzanowski, 42, said Pineda has not been aggressive enough. Dzierzanowski said the city needs a "cheerleader at the top" who can spread the word of West Chicago nationwide.
Wayne Woodward, 69, a former alderman, agrees with both his opponents about the city's poor reputation. But after being away from the council for 12 years, he's not as familiar with how to fix it.
"West Chicago has a name for being hard to get along with if you want to build anything from a single-family home to a factory," Woodward said. "But we're the customer. The city should be doing what we ask."
Pineda, who also served as chairman of the city's development committee, said nearby towns that own their own utilities provide stiff competition when businesses are seeking new locations.
"We do struggle when our businesses are going over the border to Batavia, St. Charles. The one thing they have that we don't have is their own utilities," Pineda said. "When businesses come to West Chicago and love the facility and the area, they go across the border and get their utilities a lot cheaper."
If only they would come to West Chicago, Pineda said, they would be in a "better community with better services." He said he would be willing to extend "tax breaks where feasible."
"To say we're not reaching out to businesses in town and new businesses out of town, I don't agree with that at all," he said.
Dzierzanowski agreed tax incentives may be a key to luring businesses, but those business have to know West Chicago exists before that can happen. For starters, he suggests the city "set up a booth" at the International Council on Shopping Centers annual meeting in Las Vegas later this spring.
"We have great potential. We have a lot of developable land but we're not going out there and dealing with the developers and learning how we can help them," he said. "I want to be the number one salesman for our town. I want to go help the developers, partner with them and say 'What do we need to do? Do we need to give you some type of sales tax incentive?'"
Pineda was appointed acting mayor in May, following the death of former Mayor Mike Kwasman. The seat is up for grabs in the April 9 election.