Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle held a press conference today to talk about her administration’s continued commitment to economic development.
This year alone, Cook County has significantly increased its engagement with the business community – working directly with business organizations and owners, meeting with municipalities throughout Cook County, actively working to identify potential sites for new business development and expansions, rolling back the sales tax, tax incentive programs, which not only helps secure the financial stability of the business, it has resulted in the creation of more than 1600 jobs.
The tax incentives provided by Cook County under President Preckwinkle are designed to attract new business and retain current companies by generating savings on property taxes for new construction projects, substantial rehabilitation projects and the reoccupation of abandoned buildings for industrial and commercial businesses.
Preckwinkle made the announcement at The Hill Group facilities, a company who recently benefited from a Cook County tax incentive last month. The 6b tax incentive means a 50% reduction in their property tax liability for 12 years, saving the company $2.8M in the long-term. The incentive ensures over 900 jobs at The Hill Group facilities (creating 30 new full-time jobs, 25 new construction jobs and retaining 850 full-time jobs).
She cited the company’s expansion as a result of her administrations reinvigorated approach to economic development. Preckwinkle has been vocal about the need for Cook County to play a more active role in the economic development of the region.
“For too long the County has been absent in the economic development efforts of the region,” Preckwinkle said. “Given the serious economic times we face, I don’t believe we can afford not to do everything in our power to help create an economic environment to foster business growth and job creation here in Cook County.”
Despite a nearly half billion dollar deficit upon taking office, Preckwinkle unanimously passed Fiscal Year 2011 budget that included provisions to roll-back the sales tax 0.25% in FY 2012 and 0.25% in FY 2013.
“I said on the campaign trail that the sales tax increase was a burden to working families and a burden to our business communities, particularly businesses that employ hundreds of thousands on the periphery of the county who had to compete with Kane, Lake, Will and DuPage — counties that have a lower sales tax,” said Preckwinkle.
One of her first actions towards this goal was to consolidate the County’s scattered economic development agencies within a Bureau of Economic Development. The consolidation not only helps to reduce costs but strengthens the administration’s focus on effective economic development and job creation for the County.
Preckwinkle stressed the administration’s efforts to better allocate Federal dollars and grant funding through programs like Community Development Block Grants (CDBG). This funding seeks to strengthen communities by improving infrastructure throughout Cook County neighborhoods. The County has awarded $9.4 million in 2011 CDBG funds to 101 recommended projects and activities. More than fifty percent of the program funds target capital improvements in suburban communities, including: 57 blocks of street, alley and sidewalk improvements; approximately 8 blocks of water and/or sewer infrastructure repair; and the phased development of two community centers.
“We have to leverage our Federal dollars more effectively while also making it easier for businesses to compete,” Preckwinkle said. “We are taking a collaborative, all-hands-on-deck approach to economic development because the families and residents of Cook County should expect nothing less from their elected officials.”
In addition to the County’s tax incentives and the administration of Federal dollars towards economic development programs, Preckwinkle pointed to the rebranded and restructured Cook County Works program (formally POET) which has spent approximately $2 million in Workforce Investment Act funding to provide over 500 Cook County youth with summer employment and workforce training skills.
Preckwinkle was joined at the new conference by the CEO of The Hill Group, Bob Krier, who praised President Preckwinkle’s focus on economic development.
“Without these tax incentives, we would not have been able to create and keep these jobs,” Krier said. “The President’s leadership played a critical role and we are grateful for her continued efforts to strengthen the local economy and work with businesses here in Cook County.”
The Hill Group is a contracting mechanical engineering organization engaged in construction, maintenance and operation of building systems, all with a focus on energy efficiency and sustainability. They have worked on several Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning systems locally such as the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital, Trump International Hotel and Tower, and the Chicago Temple. The Hill Group (formerly Hill Mechanical) has operated in Cook County for 75 years.