: Economic Development
From the early weeks of the Pasquale administration in 2001, the Mayor put a priority on economic development. Mayor Pasquale put together a team expert in the field of development and dedicated to a long-term plan to make Bellwood a vibrant center for shopping, residential and industrial expansion and community activities.
As is the case in other older suburban communities, many of Bellwood’s better jobs, particularly those in manufacturing, have moved overseas. The infrastructure, both private (such as the manufacturing buildings left behind) and public (like the transportation and utilities left behind) put these communities at a strategic disadvantage in luring new business. This disadvantage is compounded by the fact that outdated manufacturing practices were not subject to today’s more stringent environmental standards, and thus, we frequently find that old manufacturing locations require costly clean up to bring them up to today’s standards.
Transforming facilities (some nearly 100 years old) into modern, attractive and desirable places to live and work meant that the economic development team had a long planning horizon ahead of it. Preparing for redevelopment was clearly going to be an expensive undertaking and even under the best of circumstances, visible progress was going to take several years.
Among Bellwood’s strengths identified by the economic team were a quality work force and the willingness on the Village’s part to support the Mayor’s redevelopment plans in spite of the knowledge that in come cases, these efforts would not bear fruit for 5 or even 10 years. Despite these difficulties, Bellwood maintained one overwhelming advantage. Bellwood is minutes from downtown Chicago and also just a few minutes away from O’Hare International Airport. Access to and from Bellwood is one of the most convenient of any Chicago suburb. Our Village sits at the crossroads of a major interstate highway, an important commuter rail line, an extensive bus network and one of the world’s busiest airports. Based on this, land acquisition for development provided the opportunity to reach a high level of development potential. There are few public resources to tap when it comes to public/private cooperation in development. Federal and state dollars have become increasingly rare.
Economic conditions play a role in how quickly the private sector can react to a potential public partnership. The current economic downturn has dramatically curtailed private dollars devoted to new construction. But Bellwood’s efforts over the past eight years have positioned it well for the expected recovery. When money is available for retail, commercial and residential investment, we will be ready. That preparedness will lead to a much higher tax base, good new jobs, more and better shopping alternatives, new and modern housing opportunities, enhanced community services and a transportation hub which will be a vibrant center for the entire metropolitan area.