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updated: 7/29/2014 4:13 PM

Buffalo Grove leaders face economic development questions

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Buffalo Grove has been courting economic development for years, trying a variety of strategies ranging from annexation to the creation of the Town Center mall, with mixed results.

While surrounding communities have been luring "big box" stores and other large retail developments, Buffalo Grove has remained basically a bedroom community with pockets of strip malls.

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Whether that should stay the case was a topic of discussion this week as elected village leaders met as a committee of the whole to begin work on a comprehensive economic development strategy.

Village Manager Dane Bragg said the issue comes down to whether Buffalo Grove wants to remain mostly a bedroom community or grow its commercial base.

"Are we wanting to become a destination point for different reasons (or) purposes? To what level do we want to try to diversify our revenue streams?" he asked.

Among the issues before the village board are what types of economic incentives they might offer to attract more commercial development, and how much staff they're willing to commit to recruiting businesses to town.

Trustee Andrew Stein was among those in favor of incentives such as sales tax sharing to lure businesses into the village.

Trustee Beverly Sussman said the village should first focus on filling available spaces in town.

"Let's try to fill up all the empty spaces and empty storefronts and empty strip malls and whatever we have here that's empty," she said. "It doesn't have to be just this grandiose kind of a thing. Let's just get businesses here."

Trustee Jeffrey Berman pointed out that the village board has held numerous similar discussions over the years, but seen little follow through on their plans.

"We've been having these same kinds of theoretical construct discussions since 1999. Every once in a while we hear staff say, 'Where do we want to be and where are we going?' And in the end, it's a lot of words and a lot of paper but little actual action and very little result. And it's frustrating," he said.

Berman said he would like to see a more aggressive effort at economic development and see sales tax revenue grow.

But staff, he said, must go out and "sell this community."

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