Highland Park residents play an essential role in maintaining the vibrancy of our city. The hands-on work of volunteers can be seen in every aspect of community life: economic and business development, cultural arts, human services, natural resources, and more. We are fortunate to have many dedicated volunteer commission members and I encourage anyone interested in joining a commission to click here to learn more and submit an application. Openings on boards and commissions occur at various times during the year and are by appointment of the Mayor with approval by the Council.
Yesterday was the quarterly Business & Economic Development Commission (BEDC) Mayor’s breakfast. While the BEDC meets monthly, these quarterly breakfasts bring together all of our business groups, staff liaisons, several not-for-profits, members of our sister governments and more. Why so many people? The answer is simple: business and economic development is the single greatest way to generate revenue to offset our tax burden and is part of what makes Highland Park such an attractive place to live and work.
I tasked this commission with the complex job of bringing together our 9 business districts and the numerous stakeholders involved. A great deal of energy and resources were being used for duplicative projects and goals were not being achieved. Something needed to be done.
I’m happy to report that much progress has been made this year. Many districts have clearly identified their short and long term goals, are working towards achieving them and significant projects are coming to fruition.Occupancy is at its best since July, 2008 and annual sales tax dollars per square foot are almost to pre-recession levels. Moreover, economic development resources and ideas are now being shared throughout the city.
An added bonus, this collaboration has uncovered Highland Park’s entrepreneurial spirit and growth. More than 6,000 Highland Park businesses are registered with the State of Illinois. Many of these are home-based. In the coming year, the BEDC will work to nurture and assist these businesses in sharing resources and achieving success.
Additionally, the BEDC and our Economic Development staff have created two tools to keep projects moving and to communicate opportunities to registered businesses. The BEDC Status Report is a regularly updated list of on-going BEDC/City initiatives. It delineates business development projects, tasks, timing and participants. The other tool is the BEDC biweekly e-newsletter. It is full of ideas for entrepreneurs, job seekers, small and large businesses and residents, too. As you know, we are focused on transparency and communication. To this end, these tools will soon be available for viewing on our City website.
Together, we are seeking efficiencies, collaboration and maximal economic development opportunities. The meeting yesterday morning confirmed that these goals are being achieved. A special thank you to all involved for coming together to make this happen. To contact the BEDC or our Economic Development staff, please email Carolyn Hersch at firstname.lastname@example.org. The BEDC Facebook page can be found here and the City’s Business Development webpage can be found here.