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Economic Development Task Force Recommends Part-Time Staff, More For Park Ridge

The 28-member economic development task force presented a wide range of recommendations to city officials, with an estimated cost of more than $260,000.

The City of Park Ridge may hire a new staff member to market to potential residents and businesses, and make improvements to the city’s website, if recommendations from the economic development task force are adopted by city council.

The recommendations were part of a report from the task force for city officials, which outlined economic development goals and associated costs identified by the 28-member task force during meetings in 2012. The committee of the whole voted, unanimously, in favor of accepting the report at a meeting on Monday, but city council would have to implement the task forces recommendations in separate actions.

The 14-page report, Economic Development Goals for the City of Park Ridge, summarizes a broad range of recommendations, with an estimated cost of more than $260,000, from the task force, which was formed in the beginning of 2012 with business leaders, city officials and other community members. It was charged with providing feedback on economic development tools, issues and approaches, according to the report, economic development strategies, public relations, city operations and more.

The two recommendations key to economic development in Park Ridge, according to the task force’s report, were to hire a part-time staff person, or an outside firm, to manage economic development activities, and to complete an overhaul of the city’s website.

Mary Ryan worked on the communications subcommittee of the task force. Ryan told committee members it was urgent that the city take action on the recommendations. Ryan said Park Ridge has a lot to offer, but if there is not someone assigned to promoting it, nothing would change.

“We can’t really talk about how great we are; there’s nobody here who has the time or the expertise to do it,” Ryan said.

Mayor David Schmidt said he attended one of the task force’s meetings several months ago. Schmidt said he wanted city staff to review the recommendations and report to city council members about what should be implemented and what should not, and why. If any of the recommendations are going to be funded in the next budget year, they would need to add them to the budget soon.

“I would expect or hope that those recommendations, at least the short term goal recommendations that have budget implications, would be the first ones to get analyzed by staff because we are over halfway through the budget process now, and if we’re going to be doing anything to the budget this year to implement some of these recommendations, we’re going to have to move quickly,” Schmidt said.

MaryJo MacSwain, a member of the task force, told committee members she urged them to consider two factors during the budget process, when discussing expenditures for economic development. First, she said, the economy was slowly recovering.

“There have been many positive indicators this is the time to do some business development and ride that wave,” MacSwain said.

Neighboring communities were actively promoting their amenities, MacSwain said.

“Second of all, our competition is doing it. Recently Des Plaines put out a [request for a consultant] for business development,” MacSwain said. “So we have to think of ourselves as competing with the local communities.”

Herbert Zuegel, a member of the task force, told committee members they were also researching whether they could work with neighboring communities on promotions. Zuegel said Rosemont was building a fashion mall, and Des Plaines had Rivers Casino.

“We’re hoping to do some partnering with those communities, and draw some people from there to here, because we do have some things to offer that nobody else has,” Zuegel said.

Schmidt said he was sure members of the task force would watch city council to see what progress was made.

“I don’t want this to be an empty gesture because these people did put in a lot of hard work this past year,” Schmidt said. “We want to make sure that this isn’t just some report that gets put on a shelf somewhere, never to be seen again.”

For more pictures, information and conversation, like Des Plaines Patch on Facebook.

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