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Article updated: 3/8/2013 7:21 AM

Elgin moves to renew contract with chamber of commerce

By Elena Ferrarin

After being told that 2012 was a good year for economic development in Elgin, a city council committee recommended renewing a contract for economic development services from the Elgin Area Chamber of Commerce.

The unanimous committee of the whole vote on Wednesday was for a one-year, $275,000 contract for the Elgin Development Group program, a partnership between the city, the chamber and the Downtown Neighborhood Association established in 2010.

Services include small business assistance, business retention outreach and foreign trade initiatives through "sister city" and other similar programs, city officials said.

Assistant City Manager Rick Kozal said last year's city contract with the chamber was also $275,000, down from $400,000 in years past.

The money comes from the Riverboat fund.

In a presentation before the vote, Chamber President Carol Gieske said Elgin was a "standout" for economic development in 2012, compared to many of its counterparts across the country.

Mike Shales, owner of Shales McNutt Construction and past chamber board chairman, highlighted the EDG's role in bringing three new spec buildings to Elgin, including a 160,000-square foot Pancor Construction & Development building.

He also pointed to the $8 million redevelopment of the Wing Park Shopping Center, and the opening of the North American headquarters of Bystronic Inc., and Mueller & Co. LLP.

Councilman John Prigge said he believes the return on the city's investment is enough to support the measure.

"This is somewhat a controversial topic, but I do see the team of names (participating in the EDG), I do see the amount of businesses that have been brought in, or at least worked with," he said.

"I don't believe that a single staff person currently, or hired new, could do the work that the chamber can do."

Elgin has reduced its economic development budget by about $125,000 per year after eliminating in-house staff and creating the Elgin Development Group in 2010, officials said.

Councilwoman Anna Moeller agreed with Prigge. However, she also pointed out small businesses need marketing help from the chamber.

"Enhancing Elgin's profile regionally is something we need to continue to focus on," she said.

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