Four months ago, Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen focused his first State of the County address on how he would make the county's budget reflect actual, known costs and prevent taxpayers from being asked for more property tax dollars. On Tuesday, in a second address to Elgin-area business leaders, Lauzen focused on the importance of creating jobs.
Lauzen cited unemployment numbers that show the county has consistently had a higher unemployment rate than the national average in recent years. He credited that to bad policymaking at the state level but said local businesses will be the key to putting county residents back to work.
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"What you do in your businesses is provide jobs," Lauzen said. "Next to our family and our faith, I can't think of anything that's more important. I'm very encouraged that now it seems that the want ads in the local papers are starting to grow."
The task for the county is to connect local residents to those jobs, Lauzen said. To that end, Lauzen highlighted the River Valley Workforce Investment Board. The 40-member board is tasked with spending up to $6 million a year in federal workforce training dollars.
Lauzen recently pushed to increase the size of the board and move to a volunteer board member model to build trust that's been missing among the involved entities. The board has been deluged with a litany of management disarray, including the recent resignation of Executive Director Tracy McDonnell. There has also been enhanced oversight by the state because of problems accounting for how money was spent.
Lauzen highlighted his new Kane County Connected social media initiative as a way to increase community engagement and make the county an attractive draw for would-be employers.
"Before we go out with a salesperson, we have to have a package of strategic advantages that attract people and keep people in Kane County," Lauzen said. "Like us on Facebook and you'll have a direct voice on how we spend your tax dollars without asking for more. This is not about propaganda about Kane County. It's about what people enjoy doing naturally."
He indicated a desire to build that network of county taxpayers, employers and other interested groups before moving toward hiring the county's first economic development director since the downturn of the economy.