Economic partnerships, Longmeadow completion on tap for 2023 in Kane County

Kane County will see many economic initiatives come to fruition or continue to advance in 2023, Kane County Board Chair Corinne Pierog said.

They include regional economic planning grants to pay for the Longmeadow Parkway so it does not need to be a tollway, the development of workforce housing, support for small businesses and more electric vehicle charging stations.

"I'd like to believe we are going to complete our study and begin implementation of an economic development council. It will be the first time Kane County has had an economic development council," Pierog said.

Its members will be professionals from a variety of fields, such as factory and business owners, civic leaders, and members of the tourism industry, she said.

Funding will come from a private-public partnership that still needs to be figured out.

"We will start small and define industries," Pierog said. "What are critically in need? What are well-supported in Kane County?"

Its purpose would be to assist businesses looking to locate in the county to choose the best area. A business owner might be looking at a site in one community and then decide it's not quite right. The council would assist in referring the business to another location in Kane County, rather than see it leave, she said.

"We no longer stand alone," she said. "We stand together."

A similar partnership is being developed between Cook and the collar counties with an eye toward keeping businesses in the region rather than see them leave for neighboring states like Wisconsin and Indiana.

"We're stronger if we work together," Pierog said.

Longmeadow Parkway

As the Longmeadow Parkway on the county's north side nears completion, the next step is to pay off the debt that helped fund it, Pierog said.

"Because of its regional nature, we were able to lobby the governor and ... the allocation of $17.5 million should be coming through shortly to pay down the bond," Pierog said. "We are advocating for another $17.5 million. We are actively working with our legislative partners and other counties to work on bringing down the rest of that bond so we won't have to have a toll bridge."

Workforce development, housing

The county also will support workforce development, helping residents improve work skills through internships and subsidies, Pierog said.

But once a person is trained and is in their first job paying $40,000 a year, there is no place they can afford to live in Kane County, she added.

"Thought leaders, economic leaders and civic leaders say there is a critical need for workforce housing," Pierog said. "It is not speculative. The next step is meeting with large developers in the county."

She said the Illinois Real Estate Association supports workforce housing.

"It can be condos, it can be apartments, as well as homes," Pierog said. "It has to be the next step. Businesses are going to be looking for available workers and housing here is too expensive and not available. How do we adequately supply this for the future so we have a broad range of housing products for our population?"

Pierog acknowledged it would take some explaining for public support.

Supporting diversity

Pierog said county government can support small business development by purchasing their products, especially those that are minority-, women- and veteran-owned.

"Because of the diversity of our population here in Kane County - which I consider an incredible asset and wealth for us - and from the county perspective, I want it to continue," Pierog said.

The county's human resources director is doing outreach to develop a diverse workforce, she said.

"We already looked at pay equity and we're moving that forward like nobody's business," Pierog said. "It is to make sure that everyone whose jobs are in similar positions are being addressed, and that is working out very well."

EV charging

Part of economic development is being able to offer electric vehicle charging stations, Pierog said.

The growth and expansion of electric vehicles will require studies to see where charging stations should go, especially along the Randall Road corridor, she said.

One problem is some existing charging stations cater only to specific makes of cars and are not universal. For example, a Chevy Volt cannot use a Tesla charging station.

"Tesla is not a universal plug-in. It's proprietary," Pierog said. "We need universal charging stations. We are having lengthy conversations of how to work this out."

  The long-awaited completion of the Longmeadow Parkway should arrive this year. Now county leaders are working to pay off the debt that helped fund it. Paul Valade/, 2022
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