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Elgin Development Group

Elgin has a competitive advantage when it comes to attracting and retaining business, as evidenced by Motorola Solutions moving its manufacturing and training facility to “The City in the Suburbs.”

That advantage is called the Elgin Development Group (EDG), a unique public-private partnership between the City of Elgin, the Elgin Area Chamber of Commerce and the DNA. Thanks to the development of this economic development partnership in 2010, the process of getting Elgin’s decision-makers to the table together to facilitate and expedite new development, as well as expansions and other business-related improvements within the community, has been significantly streamlined.

“We are foremost focused on helping Elgin businesses expand and prosper,” said Tony Lucenko, economic development director for the EDG.

“Over 60 percent of job growth comes from existing businesses, so we spend a lot of time on retaining the businesses we have,” explained Bob Malm, EDG director.

The EDG focuses on business retention and expansion, new business recruitment, workforce development, transportation development, and marketing Elgin, all in an effort to create a diverse and vibrant local economy that will improve the local quality of life as well as employment opportunities for its residents.

Elgin Development Group advocates for local businesses with various entities depending on the particular needs of the business, according to Lucenko and Malm. Whether it is providing help in understanding a property tax bill, working with regional utility companies, or working alongside the city staff to fast track the permitting process; it’s all in a day’s work. Business Retention surveys sent out to local businesses, telephone calls and visits help to determine how the EDG can help local businesses with a specific short- or long-term issue. All this combines to make firms much more inclined to stay in Elgin because they know that someone is there to help them solve their problems and advocate for their interests.

The EDG’s President’s Council, hosted by Elgin Mayor David Kaptain, meets quarterly with 20 top local CEOs to discuss the local business climate, and ways that the City and EDG can improve doing business in Elgin.

Also, Sean Stegall, City Manager, and Carol Gieske, President and CEO of the Elgin Area Chamber of Commerce, visit with CEOs of approximately 12 local companies each year in an effort to keep the lines of communication open.

The Transportation and Development Committee of the EDG coordinates local capital improvement projects involving the City of Elgin, the Kane County Department of Transportation, businesses and other government agencies. The committee even won an honorable mention in the innovation category of Kane County’s first annual Sparkler Awards for innovative work and community partnerships.

Recognizing that 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside of the United States, the EDG also actively encourages local firms to consider exporting their products. The EDG holds regular exporting seminars for businesses interested in marketing internationally, and can put them in touch with various agencies that can assist them along the way. Many local companies require Certificate of Origin documentation, which verifies the country in which the goods were manufactured needed to get their products through foreign customs. The Certificate of Origin requires the authorized signature of the Elgin Area Chamber of Commerce and the seal of that organization which is a service provided by EAC.

The EDG is also deeply involved in workforce development because they are well aware that the quality of the local workforce is always of paramount concern to a business considering a new location.

One tool that the EDG promotes to help local firms recruit the best-qualified workers is the Elgin Employer Assisted Housing Program. Through the program, Elgin employers may offer a grant for a down payment on a home in certain districts of Elgin. This is an employee benefit that costs the employer nothing. A forgivable loan of up to $15,000 is also available for rehabilitation costs, so this is a great way for the city to reinvigorate targeted neighborhoods.

Potential employees who are interested in new, state-of-the-art housing can also find what they are looking for because Elgin is one of the top three sites in Illinois for new home construction and the EDG actively touts that fact.

The EDG is also actively recruiting potential manufacturing workers among its young people through programs like the “Manufacture Your Future” event, held annually during National Manufacturing Week, and the new “Automotive Technology Expo,” Malm said.

Held at the Gail Borden Public Library, the “Manufacture Your Future” event showcases the work of local manufacturers and students from area high schools are bussed in to attend. The purpose of the annual event is to raise awareness of today’s high-tech manufacturing as a lucrative, secure career path for men and women and to dispel misconceptions about manufacturing.

The Automotive Technology Expo is aimed at promoting school district U46’s technology education programs including automotive technology. The event is also held at the library.

In addition, the EDG has spearheaded the acclaimed Manufacturing Careers Internship Program (MCIP) which has teamed up with Elgin businesses to offer paid six-week internships to local students since 2011. Grant money enables participating businesses to pay the wages of young, low income interns. Consequently, approximately 12 local firms are able to “audition” workers for two or three months before deciding whether or not to hire them. The best part is there is no cost to the company to participate.

Each intern goes through a six-week boot camp before their six-week internship. The purpose of the boot camp is to instill in

them a work ethic and develop the soft skills necessary to hold down a job like being on time and following directions.

Another program, called the Advanced Manufacturing Pathways Program (AMPP), is planned for 2016. It is modeled after the MCIP program but will not be limited by age or income levels, Malm said.

The EDG has also cultivated a close working relationship between local manufacturers and local educators. Employers are regularly invited to tour educational facilities and talk to educators about the skills they need taught in school and they sometimes even advise the schools on the types of machinery on which students should be trained in order to be ready for the workplace.

EDG’s efforts are not, however, limited to the manufacturing sector, according to Lucenko. A five-member volunteer task force within the EDG recently analyzed nine retail corridors in Elgin in order to gather information they could share with prospective retailers, developers and investors about retail development opportunities. The information was shared at the annual International Council of Shopping Center conference held in Chicago.

The city boasts one of the region’s most skilled labor forces, an abundance of Class A space for immediate occupancy, build-to-suit opportunities, convenient access to I-90 and O’Hare International Airport, low Kane County taxes, fast track permitting and public transportation to downtown Chicago. Elgin also offers modern amenities ranging from health care facilities and new housing, to plentiful hotels and restaurants, not to mention desirable lifestyle aesthetics like scenic river views, the Elgin Symphony Orchestra, frequent festivals and special events, Victorian and historic housing of all shapes and sizes, and a casino that offers a summer outdoor concert series.

Whether you are a smaller business, a big box retailer, or a high-tech manufacturer, Elgin is the place to grow your business.

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