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updated: 3/15/2013 7:53 AM

Arlington Heights, chamber discussing small business partnership

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Arlington Heights is discussing a new partnership with the chamber of commerce to focus on keeping and bringing more small businesses to the village, but officials are still working out the exact details of the program and how much it would cost.

Under the concept, presented by Trustee Tom Hayes at Thursday night's budget meeting, Arlington Heights would fund about 50 percent of the costs for a chamber employee's salary and benefits not to exceed $50,000. That employee would report to the village and the chamber and work primarily on retention and recruitment of small businesses in town, Hayes said.

The money would come out of the village's contingency fund, which has more than enough money to account for the expense, officials said.

Hayes said the idea came from his long-held opinion that the village's planning department does a good job bringing in new businesses, but is often limited in manpower compared to the size and scope of development in Arlington Heights.

"As I've walked around town in the past couple of weeks I've seen that small business is a niche that does need to be addressed," Hayes said. "I think it is a great opportunity to utilize our resources to supplement the great work the department is already doing."

Officials struggled to come up with exact details of what the employee would specifically do, how the employee would report to both the village and the chamber and how staff would be able to measure success over time, but said those specifics would be ironed out before an agreement would be signed.

The partnership would not be limited to chamber members and new small businesses would not be required to join the chamber, said Executive Director Jon Ridler.

Ridler said the program was somewhat modeled after one in Elgin where the city and chamber of commerce have a partnership.

"We already do a lot of this with businesses in town," Ridler said of the communication and assistance the chamber provides. "But this would allow the chamber to do more for the village and the small businesses."

Former chamber president and Trustee Carol Blackwood said she thought the idea was a very positive step for small business retention.

"I'm very impressed, we've been talking about this for years," she said.

Village President Arlene Mulder agreed that there have been several ideas for such a partnership over the years, so this was a positive step. However, she and several trustees had too many questions to move forward with a motion on Thursday, but agreed to continue discussing to concept and its merits in the future.

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