Mettawa attorney specialzing in environmental issues named to state enterprise zone panel
After Republican Bruce Rauner was elected Illinois governor in November, Mettawa resident Larry Falbe submitted credentials via a state website for those interested in public service.
An attorney specializing in environmental issues, Falbe said he figured his expertise could be valuable in some capacity. That was made official this week as the former village trustee was named one of three Rauner appointments to the Illinois Enterprise Zone board, which considers proposals to attract investment and assist new or existing businesses.
According to Rauner's office, Falbe's 20 years of experience in site selection and environmental law make him "uniquely qualified" for the position. His extensive planning experience and public service were also cited.
The two other appointees are Jovita Carranza, a Skokie resident and former deputy administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, and Peoria resident Larry Ivory, president and CEO of the Illinois State Black Chamber of Commerce.
The five-member board also includes the heads of the state departments of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and Revenue or their designees. One appointee must be from Cook County, another from the collar counties and the third from outside those areas. The Enterprise Zone Act was signed into law in late 1982 to stimulate growth and revitalization in economically depressed areas.
Falbe said Illinois has a lot to offer but it suffers in comparison as neighboring states poach businesses, and it needs to step up its game.
"Looking at all that on paper, we should be doing better than we are," he said.
An enterprise zone is a designation used to stimulate business and industrial growth and retention, as well as neighborhood revitalization in depressed areas through relaxed controls and tax incentives.
"I think this could be a much more effective economic development tool if used correctly," he explained.
Enterprise zone applications are scored on a 10-point criteria, including a relatively high unemployment rate and potential for significant job creation and investment. The board by Sept. 30 of a year must approve or deny applications filed by the end of the previous calendar year and deemed qualified by the department.
According to spokesman Steven Savage, the department received 66 applications to establish or renew enterprise zones in 2016. Those will be scored by the department and sent to the enterprise zone board for final review and approval or denial. Under state law, the board may approve up to 49 enterprise zones in 2015.
Falbe, 46, who serves pro bono as general counsel to Lake County Partners, the county's economic development arm, regards the appointment as a possible avenue to improve Illinois' business climate.
He served eight years on the Lake County Regional Plan Commission and is a member of the Metra citizens advisory board.
He specializes in environmental and energy law and has worked closely with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and Illinois Pollution Control Board. Falbe said his forte is the potential impact of development on threatened or endangered species.
He also is president of the Lake County Republican Federation, the party's fundraising arm but says he does not consider himself a politician.