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updated: 5/15/2014 10:30 AM

Elgin panel OKs contract for economic development services

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Elgin council members for the first time approved a three-year contract for economic development services from the Elgin Area Chamber of Commerce over the objections of two members.

Councilman John Prigge and Councilwoman Carol Rauschenberger voted against the $275,000 yearly contract at Wednesday's committee of the whole meeting.

The chamber provides economic development services to the city through its Elgin Development Group arm.

The three-year agreement enhances the chamber's ability to hire a full-time economic development specialist, city officials said. The city can terminate the agreement anytime.

Prigge later cast the lone dissenting vote to approving a one-year, $135,000 contract with the Downtown Neighborhood Association of Elgin.

Prigge said the Elgin Development Group has done a good job with business retention but not with economic development.

The city should instead hire an economic development director, he said, pointing out the village of Huntley employs two people in such roles.

"We need to shop down a different aisle," he said.

Elgin could consider hiring a consulting company for economic development services, Rauschenberger said.

"I haven't felt a really strong strategic process with the EDG at this point," she said. Moving forward, she wants the group to focus on strategic planning, she said.

Prigge and Rauschenberger don't realize how hard Elgin Development Group staff members work, said Councilman Terry Gavin, who serves on the group's workforce development committee.

"The activity level, the energy level coming out has impressed me more than I thought it would," he said.

The city would have to hire at least four people to replace its partnership with the chamber, Councilwoman Tish Powell said.

Councilman John Steffen said the agreements with the chamber and Downtown Neighborhood Association cost less than providing those services in-house. Councilman Rich Dunne pointed out pension and benefit costs would also have to be factored in.

Councilman Toby Shaw said he wants the chamber to focus more on small businesses.

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