Rolling Meadows tries to lure Caterpillar, other company to town
"Disruption" may be the word most used to describe politics and government, from Brexit to the transition of power in Washington, D.C., Rolling Meadows acting Mayor Tim Veenbaas observed Wednesday.
But managed well, disruption can lead to greater growth and success, Veenbaas said.
It's what he's hoping for in his town in 2017 -- from trying to lure Caterpillar to securing the relocation of a Fortune 100 company.
Veenbaas outlined the city's economic development efforts -- which he believes need to improve -- during a state of the city address at the 12th annual Taking Care of Business luncheon of the Rolling Meadows Chamber of Commerce.
Veenbaas, the city's Ward 7 alderman, was chosen by his city council colleagues in November to serve as acting mayor until the April election, following former Mayor Tom Rooney's appointment to the 27th District state Senate seat. Aldermen Mike Cannon and Len Prejna, and Zoning Board Chairman Dave Whitney, are seeking to fill the remaining two years on Rooney's term.
During his short tenure as acting mayor, Veenbaas said he's done some things to "disrupt" how the city operates.
He personally called the CEO of Caterpillar after that company's announcement in January that it will move its headquarters from Peoria to somewhere in the Chicago area. Veenbaas hopes Rooney and state Rep. Tom Morrison will also help lobby the company.
"Rolling Meadows, like several other suburbs, is in the mix," Veenbaas said.
He's taking a different tact than a year or so ago when a Chinese delegation looking to tour Rolling Meadows was told by the city, "We're too busy," Veenbaas said.
"I apologize to them now -- that won't happen again," he said.
As to the unnamed Fortune 100 company, Veenbaas said the firm is "seriously considering" relocating to Rolling Meadows, and bringing 1,000 employees with it.
The city currently has vacant buildings large enough to house both companies, he said.
On the long-vacant former Dominick's property on Kirchoff Road, Veenbaas said property owner Clark Street Development has spoken with many investors interested in developing portions of the 11.5-acre site. What's likely is for the property to be divided up, though it's the owner's preference to sell to one group, Veenbaas said.
Last August, the city council voted down a proposal from South Bay Partners for a senior housing development on the site, following strong opposition from residents who wanted the land to remain commercial. In January, the old 130,000-square-foot building was demolished.
Veenbaas noted the economic investments in towns around Rolling Meadows, such as a live theater venue in Schaumburg and additional restaurants near Woodfield Mall. Meanwhile, since only 12,000 cars drive down Kirchoff Road every day, consultants have told the city it's hard to attract the kind of businesses residents want to see.
Veenbaas said he would continue to explore why there's a "disconnect" between what residents want and developers propose, and how the city can better help attract more investment.