Wauconda launches business recongition program to honor economic and community contributions
As suburbs compete for businesses and the sales tax dollars they bring, Wauconda officials have launched an initiative to tout local retailers, restaurants and other commercial ventures.
The business recognition program, will honor entrepreneurs who create jobs, volunteer in the community or meet other criteria.
Instead of merely encouraging businesses to open in Wauconda, officials want to ensure those in the village stay and thrive.
"We know we want to attract new businesses to town, but it's really important to retain existing businesses," village Trustee Linda Starkey said. "This is a way we can make people feel good about locating in Wauconda -- by recognizing their accomplishments."
Wauconda isn't the only town with an award program for businesses. Rolling Meadows, Lake in the Hills and Mundelein have similar programs.
"One of the components of a strong and vibrant community is to have a healthy business climate," Mundelein Village Administrator John Lobaito said.
More than 470 businesses are registered in Wauconda. That's up from 398 in 2009, the year the 19-month Great Recession ended.
Maria Weisbruch, executive director of the Wauconda Area Chamber of Commerce, estimated 40 percent are professional offices, 25 percent are restaurants or retail stores, 25 percent are industrial operations and 10 percent are civic or charitable groups.
Although not all businesses generate sales tax, the growth has created more tax revenue for Wauconda. According to Illinois Department of Revenue data, Wauconda netted $1.87 million in sales tax cash last year -- up from $1.38 million in 2009.
The business recognition program is a big thank-you to the town's merchants, restaurant owners and other entrepreneurs.
Winners will receive plaques from the village board, be treated to a luncheon with village leaders and receive a visit from the mayor. They'll also be acknowledged on the village website and in an electronic newsletter.
Any business within Wauconda's borders is eligible. The criteria include: creating new full-time and part-time jobs; significant business growth in the prior year; introduction of a unique product or a service innovation; and contributions to the community, such as volunteerism or student mentoring.
Weisbruch appreciates the effort.
"Any program that recognizes and brings attention to the dedicated businesses in this community is wonderful," she said.
Rolling Meadows officials have a similar attitude about the businesses in their city. In February, they honored 58 businesses for supporting local events or programs.
Lake in the Hills' annual Gordon Larsen Business Achievement Awards laud businesses that excel in customer or community service.
And Mundelein recognizes its businesses' charitable work and professional success with annual Gold Star Awards. Mundelein officials also promote businesses with online videos, a tactic employed in towns including Libertyville and Geneva.
Mundelein's Lobaito said municipal leaders spend more energy and resources to attract and keep businesses today than they once did.
"Following the Great Recession, I think we better understand the challenges and risk that business owners take to operate a business successfully," he said. "We witnessed many national and local business close as a result of the economic downturn."
Business recognition programs acknowledge employees' hard work and reflect the community's appreciation, Lobaito said. "And frankly, it just makes them feel a little better about being part of the community."
Wauconda's awards will be given out twice a year, starting this summer. Nominations are open to the public. The submission form is on the village's website, wauconda-il.gov, under "Economic Development." It's also available by emailing Wauconda Economic Development Coordinator Debra Ogorzaly at dogorzaly@Wauconda-il.gov.
Mayor Lincoln Knight is looking forward to seeing the first nominees.
"There are many (businesses) that have already contributed to our town," he said. "Now we can formally recognize them."
Sales tax revenue is rising in WaucondaWauconda's portion of sales tax revenue has risen since 2009.
2017: $1.87 million (from 442 businesses)
2016: $1.80 million (428 businesses)
2015: $1.82 million (453 businesses)
2014: $1.74 million (419 businesses)
2013: $1.57 million (420 businesses)
2012: $1.48 million (397 businesses)
2011: $1.48 million (547 businesses)
2010: $1.45 million (389 businesses)
2009: $1.38 million (378 businesses)
2008: $1.57 million (417 businesses)
2007: $1.76 million (472 businesses)
Source: Illinois Department of Revenue