The Daily Herald Editorial Board suggests that a focus on empty stores is due during the upcoming local elections, ("Editorial: The election focus on empty stores," Feb. 25). Empty stores or excess business capacity in many municipalities are the result of a reckless mindset of "build it and they will come."
During the 1990s many municipal boards catered to the developer crowd through zoning changes, TIF districts and special treatment to overbuild their districts in a beggar-thy-neighbor attempt to attract business. Now a structurally high vacancy rate always exists, especially during tough economic times.
Arlington Heights is the poster suburb for this economic condition. The excess, unproductive capacity here has translated into high tax rates to homeowners and businesses alike. Aspiring office holders can do very little about vacant stores, which is why you hear vague answers to such questions. It is dubious to cite the amazing job of filling Arlington Theater after it closed as an example of addressing vacant space. The Arlington Theater was closed due to mismanagement. Consider how quickly the theater will reopen with competent ownership.
No amount of business tax giveaway, streamlined applications or increased business network will change the fact that homeowners are financially stressed. Now is the time to stimulate homeowner demand by combining tax subsidies and increasing free village services to them with schemes of spending locally. Once homeowner demand is stimulated local businesses will succeed and empty stores will naturally disappear. Expediting new business applications through village hall with no increase in homeowner demand will only hasten the time when a new business will fail.
Keith A. Moens
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