The three candidates for Bartlett village president agree that there is a need for more businesses in the village, and each has different ideas on how to approach economic development.
Ted Lonis, a credit manager for Illinois Tool Works, said he is concerned about the small amount of sales tax revenue that is coming into Bartlett.
“You want to buy a jacket, you want to buy a pair of shoes, you want to buy a watch, where are you going for that? You’re going to Streamwood, you’re going to the big mall in Bloomingdale,” he said. “There’s nothing in Bartlett to go buy. You’re spending your dollars somewhere else.”
Lonis said he would like to possibly see more single-family homes come into the Brewster Creek Business Park area instead of just warehouses because they would bring in more taxes.
“There’s no money coming into the community from warehousing,” he said. “Do you need it? Yes, you need a good cross-section of businesses.”
But Lonis feels that a well-rounded mix of businesses in Bartlett still doesn’t exist, and he thinks the village is behind neighboring towns on diversifying its businesses. As for the downtown area, Lonis said he doesn’t have an answer for how to improve it.
“It’s a disaster down there,” he said, adding that he thinks there is more opportunity for business on the west side of Route 59.
Former Bartlett Chamber of Commerce Chairman Kevin Wallace said he would like to see more involvement by the village at Bartlett Chamber of Commerce events.
“For the most part village trustees aren’t attending these events,” he said. “There’s no involvement in chamber of commerce events, there’s no outreach to Brewster Creek from any of the trustees that I’ve known of.”
Wallace, who currently serves on the village’s economic development commission, said the village board dictates what the agenda is at economic development meetings.
“The board advises us what they want to hear,” he said, adding that he thinks the village has somewhat of an “unfriendly business reputation.”
Wallace said, however, that the village staff does a great job once a business expresses interest in coming to town to get them what they need to settle in.
He would like to talk to companies in Brewster Creek to see why they chose that location and then use that information to initiate advanced marketing techniques to attract new businesses there. He has also suggested ordinance reform, small business forums, community business meetings and a review of shop local campaigns to possibly increase business.
Village Trustee Patricia Kelly said she wants the village to be attractive to new businesses and known as a place that supports existing businesses. She said whether or not board members attend chamber events does not reflect on if they support Bartlett businesses.
“I support businesses in my community whether they’re chamber or not,” she said. “Being part of a chamber to me is a business decision that an independent business proprietor makes, whether they feel it’s worth the time and energy they’re going to put into it or not.”
Kelly also thinks the chamber and economic development commission could be doing more together.
Kelly said she would like to get all the businesses in the village together for a meeting with business brokers that would include a discussion of what the village offers them. She would also like to get more input from residents regarding economic development.
“I want to survey our residents to see specifically what type of businesses are you missing that we have to go to neighboring communities (for)?” she said. “We need to go and actually market us so businesses want to come into Bartlett.”
Wallace and Kelly agreed that the downtown is a challenge, with railroad tracks and with streets that don’t run through disrupting the flow, but the village needs to define what “success” is regarding the area before moving forward with changes or new development.
“The way it’s laid out, it just makes it very difficult,” Kelly said, adding that perhaps more businesses that would appeal to families would do well. “It’s not going to be a downtown Arlington Heights.”
Wallace said the village could also do a better job of promoting the “fantastic” restaurants that already exist in the downtown.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.