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updated: 4/24/2014 7:25 PM

Elgin groups talk goals, accomplishments

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The Elgin Area Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Neighborhood Association of Elgin gave presentations to the city council Wednesday outlining 2013 accomplishments and 2014 goals.

Elgin's economic growth has been "a standout" in the Chicago area, Chamber President and CEO Carol Gieske said. Data from Metrostudy shows Elgin was first in housing starts in 2013 and in the first quarter of 2014, when it was also first in closings, she said.

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Terry Royer, the chamber's board chairman-elect, updated the council on the Elgin Development Group, an independent arm of the chamber that provides economic development services to the city.

New construction in Elgin, for example, includes a Conor Commercial Real Estate and Globe Corp.'s 342,000-square-foot speculative industrial facility at 2501 Galvin Road that will bring $300,000 in impact fees and an estimated $120,000 in annual taxes to the city, Royer said.

Requests for manufacturing permits increased in 2013 compared to 2012 and 2011, he said.

Next year, the chamber will place greater emphasis on job readiness and internships. Last year's "Manufacture Your Future" event, showcasing manufacturing careers to high schoolers, will take place again in the fall, he said.

Gieske touted positive national publicity for Elgin's businesses.

For example, Fabric Images in Elgin was named among Time magazine's top 100 innovative companies for its role in creating a product that is being incorporated in Volvo's newest electric car, Gieske said. Company founder Pat Hayes will be honored with a Governor's Volunteer Service Award next week, she said.

Councilman John Prigge asked what direct involvement chamber staff members had with bringing new projects to Elgin.

Gieske replied that much of the work is about networking and connecting interested parties with city staff. "We are very often in the background of a project."

Councilman Toby Shaw said he was "not a big fan" of the Elgin Development Group about a year ago, but has changed his mind.

"A lot of it was due to ignorance and not knowing what your group did," he said during Wednesday's meeting.

Downtown Neighborhood Association of Elgin Executive Director Deirdre White said the nonprofit is in the final phase of researching a possible new special service area tax for downtown.

Preliminary feedback from property owners about the new tax -- which would fund the association's operations in addition to fundraising -- has been positive, White said.

The association's Economic Development Director Don Obenauf said that, in 2013, there were approximately 151 businesses in operation downtown, plus 45 properties for lease and 12 for sale.

A restaurateur from Chicago is "moving forward" with occupying the former On The Side Restaurant on South Grove Avenue, he said.

This year, the associaton wants to make better use of its website and social media to advertise available properties, he said.

Also, the association will work on including downtown Elgin in the National Register of Historic Places, which would give property owners access to grants and tax credits, White said.

Councilwoman Tish Powell asked about the challenge posed by empty storefronts. White replied she's working on a program to dress them up while advertising existing businesses.

Obenauf also said a new program "to encourage entrepreneurship and bring a buzz to downtown Elgin" is in the works, but did not elaborate.

The city council will consider renewing its financial contracts with the chamber and the association at a future meeting. Elgin City Manager Sean Stegall said staff recommends approving a multiyear contract for the first time to allow the two agencies greater long-range planning.

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