Mundelein mayoral candidates debate business strategies
Mundelein Mayor Steve Lentz believes officials have done "a great job" attracting new businesses to town, but the two candidates trying to unseat him in the April 4 election say more needs to be done.
Lentz and challengers Holly Kim and Ray Ladewig discussed village hall's economic development efforts and other issues in a group interview with the Daily Herald.
Lentz was elected mayor in 2013 and is seeking a second term. Kim was elected to the village board the same year.
Ladewig owns a small business in town and formerly served on the planning and zoning commission.
Lentz spoke in glowing terms about village hall's efforts to attract and retain businesses.
He pointed to the 2015 relocation of Lake County's largest law firm, Kovitz Shifrin Nesbit, to Mundelein from Buffalo Grove as a success, as well as the recent expansions of the local Sysmex Corp. and Larsen Manufacturing facilities.
"I think we have done a great job of bringing business in and expanding (them)," Lentz said.
The village's Business Incentive Grant program, which offers cash to entrepreneurs who are improving their properties or replacing signs, has been a big help, Lentz said. So have various tax-rebate deals, he said.
Lentz also boasted that the turnaround for building permits is quicker than it once was, with the goal being five days or fewer.
Kim isn't as enthusiastic.
The current business strategies "are better than they had been," she said, but more work is needed.
Kim claims some businesses have left town without ever meeting anyone from village hall.
"They didn't feel they existed to any of the village entities," Kim said. "We can do a better job at that."
She cited an accounting firm that once operated on Park Street as an example.
On the other hand, Kim said the village is working more on brand awareness and marketing for the town, which helps businesses. Officials should increase marketing efforts by trying to reach company CEOs through LinkedIn and other services, she said.
Ladewig said the village is doing a good job attracting and retaining businesses, but can do better.
"If we were doing a really good job, there wouldn't be three contestants for the mayoral race," he said.
Ladewig said Mundelein lacks key retailers such as a sporting goods store or a clothing store, and he complained about the lack of a local movie theater.
"We need to get out and prospect," he said. "We should be calling on potential customers and saying, 'Hey, we have the demographics (for you).'"
Village officials should offer business owners tours of possible sites and offer incentive packages, too, Ladewig said.
The village's 2014 creation of a new star-shaped logo isn't enough, he said.
"If we have everything we needed in our town, why do we keep going to neighboring towns and going to their festivals?" Ladewig asked.