Gurnee's four village board trustee candidates have staked positions on the concept of providing incentives to lure major businesses to town.
Incumbent Jeanne Balmes is on the April 9 ballot with Thomas Hood, Terry Waddell-Moenter and Don Wilson seeking three open 4-year seats. Hood, Balmes, Wilson and Waddell-Moenter recently addressed village issues in a Daily Herald editorial board group interview and on candidate questionnaires.
Future use of incentives to lure major businesses to Gurnee was among the ideas tackled by the four trustee candidates.
In November 2011, trustees voted 5-1 in favor of spending a maximum of $10 million in public money that was borrowed through a bond sale so a Macy's department store can open in the village through upgrades at Gurnee Mills. Macy's is expected to debut in August.
Balmes, a trustee since 2001, said while public incentives for businesses is not her preference, officials must continue weighing the overall benefits to the village board before any are approved. Proponents said Macy's, which is expected to open in August, already has triggered inquiries from other retailers considering Gurnee.
"If we can get restaurants, obviously more upscale stores in that (Gurnee Mills) corridor, that's all sales tax dollars that will come back to us," Balmes said.
Hood, an attorney and former Gurnee zoning board of appeals member, said every deal should be considered on a case-by-case basis. He said a tax-sharing agreement would be better than upfront direct financial assistance in an effort to bring a business to Gurnee.
"I think it would be preferable if we had to give no incentive. I think you start with not offering any incentive at all and say we've got a great place to come to, bring your business and you're going to make money," Hood said. "Well, if we lose every business that comes our way, then we have to rethink that strategy."
Wilson, another former member of the advisory zoning board of appeals who is a radio personality and owns a wedding business, said he favors incentives as way to attract major businesses, provided the money is not borrowed to do so.
"I'm not sure floating $10 million in taxpayer bond money is the way that I would go," Wilson said, referring to the deal that attracted Macy's.
Waddell-Moenter, a small-business owner who served in the Air Force, said it was a good decision to bring Macy's to Gurnee. She said the business inducements can help keep Gurnee viable.
"If I am elected and do become a trustee, that's something I would really look at and make sure that we are making the right decision based on the specifics," Waddell-Moenter said. "I don't want to be giving too many incentives, because it may start a trend and open Pandora's box, and I don't think that's something we want to do from a financial standpoint."
Gurnee isn't alone in providing incentives to companies. Lake Zurich last year approved a sales-tax rebate agreement that may result in up to $2 million going to a developer planning to build a Mariano's Fresh Market as part of a retail project at Route 22 and Quentin Road.