Eight suburbs consider working together for business accelerator program

 
 
Posted10/11/2016 5:25 AM

Eight suburbs are considering creating a collaborative program that would help existing Northwest suburban businesses accelerate to the next level.

The private-public partnership, which would be run as a regional nonprofit called Next Level Northwest, is being discussed by Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Elk Grove Village, Hanover Park, Hoffman Estates, Mount Prospect, Rolling Meadows and Schaumburg.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

On Monday, Arlington Heights trustees discussed the program, saying they thought it was a progressive idea, but they had a litany of questions about how it would work.

Under the proposal, making its way to each suburb's elected officials for discussion, each municipality would be responsible for $5,000 for startup costs and then $15,000 each year for the next three years to fund the program. Officials hope it will be self-sustaining through fundraising in later years.

Among the eight suburbs involved, there is a population of nearly 400,000 people and a base of more than 20,000 businesses, said Charles Perkins, director of community planning and development.

"The belief is that a regional collaborative makes so much more sense. Each individual community on its own could not put something together like this," Perkins said.

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The program is not aimed at startups or new businesses but instead targets "Stage 2" businesses, which typically have been operating for several years and can employ anywhere from 10 to 100 people.

Perkins said there are about 600 businesses that could fall into the Stage 2 criteria in Arlington Heights.

If a business is selected it will be assigned a coach to work with for 120 days to come up with an action plan for the future. Perkins said they hope to help five to 10 businesses in each community each year.

The program would also work with Ray Benedetto, a Chicago-area economic development consultant and president of Guidestar Inc. as a liaison.

Trustees were supportive but had questions such as how Arlington Heights would measure return on its investment, how the suburbs would work together and how the village could withdraw if it no longer wants to be part of the group.

Arlington Heights' village staff will continue discussing the idea with the other suburbs and the Arlington Economic Alliance, and no funds will be allocated without the board's approval.

"I think it's a worthwhile endeavor to continue exploration," said Arlington Heights Village President Tom Hayes. "But a lot of work needs to be done on this before we can fully get behind it."

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