Optimism was the theme for 2011 at the Elmhurst Chamber of Commerce and Industry's State of Our City breakfast.
During his Jan. 18 address, Mayor Peter DiCianni pledged to attract new business and retain current stores in the community as the city begins focusing on 2011.
"We want to keep our shopping local to keep our taxes low," he said. "We have a great city and a great location that makes us attractive to businesses."
DiCianni cited the new Elmhurst Memorial Hospital and attracting new businesses as factors in continuing to grow and create new jobs. He also said a main goal of the City Council will be to bring in new revenue as it did in 2010, without laying off any police, fire or public works staff.
Doesn't See a Mass Exodus
Even with Gov. Pat Quinn's new income tax hike, DiCianni does not see many businesses leaving Illinois for neighboring Wisconsin and Indiana. On the contrary, he sees potential for even more growth in Chicago and surrounding suburbs.
"Despite the income tax raise, we are still the 30th lowest state," he said. "I don't think businesses will flock to leave Illinois."
But the mayor was critical of the move, saying he hopes state officials make sure money raised by the income tax increase is used to fund public schools.
"The state is in a very difficult situation," he said. "It's been going on for years. Governors have borrowed and have not been responsible. We had to make cuts at City Hall, and we expect that out of our state.
"I am very concerned about our public schools. The state has been irresponsible with paying its bills. Hopefully with the tax increase the state can pay our schools. The only thing that can help [Elmhurst's] schools is growth."
DiCianni said "one of the youngest" city councils that has ever served Elmhurst will be a great thing for residents since most aldermen—and the mayor, himself—have children in the public schools.
New Grocery Store on the Horizon?
Although Elmhurst lost a Saturn and a Lincoln Mercury dealership, the city has been in discussions to land a high-end grocery store such as Trader Joes or Whole Foods Market. The mayor also pointed to AT&T and Jersey Mike's Subs as new businesses in the area.
He also pledged to keep downtown parking free and add more parking and retail on Addison Avenue in 2011. The new $2.5 million parking deck provided 300 parking spaces when it opened he said.
The mayor was overcome with emotion and took a few seconds to compose himself as he remembered the passing of Elmhurst Police Officer Kyle Dieling, who was killed in a car crash Jan. 1.
"He was the first officer I swore in when I took office," DiCianni said. "God bless the Dielings with their loss."