City forms its own economic development team

Melissa Hon
Melissa Hon is leaving her job as assistant to the city manager to lead Bloomington’s new economic development department. (Photo by Howard Packowitz/WJBC)

 

By Howard Packowitz

BLOOMINGTON – A retiring Bloomington alderman isn’t happy with the outside agencies performing economic development work for the city.

Alderman Diana Hauman, who’s not running for re-election in Ward 8, is pleased the city government is building its own economic development team.

“Over the 4 1/2-years I’ve been here, I’ve not been satisfied with the work of the outside entities on our behalf or the progress we’ve made internally. That’s not a knock on our city. It’s just I haven’t seen it as a priority,” said Hauman, whose ward covers southeast Bloomington.

The council voted unanimously Monday to establish an economic development department by reallocating existing dollars and reassigning existing city staff. The department will be led by Melissa Hon who’s leaving her post as assistant to the city manager.

De Urban, owner of Alley Kats Arts and Antiques at 401 S. Center St., said she’s overjoyed by the change. What’s needed, according to Urban, is for city staffers to hear from small business owners about what’s needed to help them succeed.

“I think it’s important to hear the voices of those of us that are in small business, to be able to have a place to go and communicate that with the people that are the powers-that-be,” said Urban said.

If the council approves the budget, the new department will receive $200,000 in seed money from reductions the city has made in subsidies paid to the Bloomington-Normal Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and BN Advantage.

The Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council has been the subject of criticism for lack of transparency in how it spends taxpayer dollars. However, the city is expected to continue paying a $100,000 annual subsidy while the EDC searches for a new chief executive officer.

Howard Packowitz can be reached at howard.packowitz@cumulus.com

Blogs

WJBC Voices: Understanding TIF investments

As we near another local election, understanding what a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district is and its role in economic development seems unclear to many I talk to.

WJBC Voices: JB the CK

Based on the budget, Pritzker ought to change his initials from J.B. (whatever they stand for) to C.K. (Can Kicker).