City’s new economic development office seen to emphasize downtown, improve ties with Normal

 

Melissa Hon
The director of the newly-created Bloomington Economic Development Department, Melissa Hon, hosted a Wednesday night open house at City Hall. (Photo by Howafd Packowitz/WJBC)

 

By Howard Packowitz

BLOOMINGTON – The four staffers on Bloomington government’s new economic development office claim to have quite a few irons in the fire just about 2 1/2 weeks after the city council created the department.

Economic Development Director Melissa Hon hosted an open house at City Hall Wednesday night.

Right now, we have over 10 prospective development projects throughout the community that are in discussion, that are in the works,” said Hon.

“We have seven new businesses opening downtown in the first quarter of 2019. So, for those individuals that say, ‘What’s going on downtown?’ There’s a lot going on downtown,” Hon also said.

Existing staffers like Hon were reassigned to work in economic development, using $200,000 in seed money saved from reducing subsidies to the Bloomington-Normal Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and BN Advantage.

“This puts us in a position where there is more of an emphasis on economic development, more of an emphasis on downtown, more of an emphasis on communication and relationships with our different regional partners. This is not us going our own way,” said City Manager Tim Gleason.

Downtown property owner, business owner and resident Vicki Tilton thinks a city-run economic development office is a great idea.

“Especially if it’s going to become a more cooperative relationship with Normal,” said Tilton.

“I believe we are a community as a whole, not two separate cities,” she added.

Tilton also noted the downtown area is in need of more volunteers to help with various tasks like promotions, Saturday morning farmers markets, picking up garbage, and planting flowers.

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

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