Wauconda village board candidates not sold on incentives for businesses
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The candidates running for seats on Wauconda's village board want to bring more businesses to town, but not all are enthusiastic about offering financial incentives to lure them.
Six people are seeking three trustee seats with 4-year terms in the April 7 election. They are: incumbents Ken Arnswald, Chuck Black and Linda Starkey; and challengers Jason Anderson, Dwight Thomas and Bob Cook.
Two additional candidates -- incumbent Joseph Coster and challenger Tim Howe -- are running for one seat with a 2-year term.
Improving the local business climate is an issue in many municipal races this year, and Wauconda is no exception. Although several new businesses have opened in the last few years, a former Dominick's Finer Foods on Route 176 and other storefronts remain vacant.
The village board created a special taxing zone last year to raise money for projects that could encourage economic development.
When it comes to offering prospective businesses a percentage of sales tax as a rebate or other incentives, however, the candidates are divided.
Anderson said he believes the special taxing district will help drive economic growth in town. Tax incentives and subsidies can be important tools, Anderson said, but they should be scrutinized before being approved.
"The wrong deal with the wrong company could make something go south really fast," he said.
Arnswald said he favors offering incentives but insisted he's "not going to give away the farm to get someone in there."
Black is a fan of offering incentives to bring new employers to Wauconda.
The village doesn't have an incentive program, he said, so situations are considered individually.
As for encouraging economic development, Black said officials need to "keep doing what they're doing." That includes hosting public events that promote the town, he said.
Cook is not a fan of financial incentives for new businesses.
"The problem I have with those is that they're often unfairly doled out," he said.
Still, Wauconda needs to have "a business friendly environment," Cook said. That means helping existing businesses and not just luring new ones, he said.
Coster sees the commercial vacancies in town as "an opportunity for us." He believes village officials should work with landlords to fill those spots.
He is not, however, a big supporter of cash incentives.
"We've got to be careful what kind of precedent we set there," Coster said. "I think it's situational."
Howe said officials need to make Wauconda a place where people want to come work. He said they've accomplished that on Main Street, which has several thriving restaurants and retail shops.
"We've given business a lot of good reasons to come to Wauconda," Howe said.
Rather than offering "handouts," Howe said he'd like officials to work with businesses and landlords to boost the economy.
Starkey called economic development a "core premise" of the campaign but urged caution when it comes to financial incentives and not offer too much.
She said the village's rebranding effort and the creation of new signs and visitors guides should help spur development in town.
Thomas said economic development must be a priority in Wauconda.
"I would support any economic inventive that would make sense and any that the village can afford," Thomas said. "We need to welcome all new business opportunities."
Anderson, Cook, Coster and Thomas are running as the For Wauconda slate. Arnswald, Black, Starkey and Howe are running as the United For Progress team.