Whether its through drawing new businesses or the hiring of a new community development director, Hanover Park "has come a long way" in its economic health, Mayor Rodney Craig said at his annual state of the village address Thursday.
In a suburb without a distinct downtown, Craig stressed the growth near Barrington and Irving Park roads during his look back at 2013. National brands and local franchises -- Harbor Freight Tools and Tony's Finer Foods, Craig noted -- opened stores along the major arteries.
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Another coup is a long-awaited facility connecting adults to jobs and free general education courses at Hanover Square on Barrington Road. Harper College and Elgin Community College will open the Education and Work Center this summer in a 10,900-square-foot space officials are counting on to fight unemployment and revitalize the aging strip mall -- bought by the village more than two years ago for $2.8 million.
"We're on the right path," Craig said.
The "dynamic" area, the mayor said, has landed an Illinois Welcoming Center satellite geared toward the village's growing Hispanic population.
Next to the fire department's headquarters, Christ Presbyterian Church will house bilingual staff steering families to state programs and job counseling.
Craig has tapped the Alfred Campanelli YMCA in Schaumburg to help manage the center, expected to have a "soft opening" next week.
"It's not just Latino-oriented," Craig said. "It's for all first-generation families that are looking to find a way."
He also looked ahead to development prospects tied to the extension of the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway.
"When you stand at O'Hare and look to the east, you see a lot of lights, a lot of growth, a lot of development," Craig said. "When you turn around and look to the west, you see 178 square miles of opportunity for development, growth and jobs. So we have to build upon that."
Business and community leaders at the speech in Hanover Park's police station welcomed the focus on the so-called Golden Corridor northwest of the airport.
"What that means for Hanover Park is more jobs for our residents … and that the community will continue to grow and service the Chicagoland area," Hanover Park Chamber of commerce Executive Director Andrea Fox said.
Although the village is "not staff-rich," Craig said, officials worked to secure state financing to boost projects in town.
Hanover Park plans to spend a roughly $20,000 state grant to spruce up foreclosed homes that have fallen into disarray.
"Just because the economy's tough doesn't mean we can't toughen up a little bit and keep our homes looking good," he said.