Though Madison Street is lauded as the heart of Forest Park, businesses lining Roosevelt Road have a much larger economic impact on village coffers.
With big box retail stores including Walmart, Kmart and Ultra Foods, on top of two auto dealerships, a combination of the stores on Roosevelt account for more than 60 percent of the total sales tax revenue the village receives.
That figure was tallied at the Review’s request by Rory Hoskins, commissioner of accounts and finance, and Judy Kovacs, finance director for the village, based on the most recent tax data reported to the state.
“Those are large volume producers,” said Mayor Anthony Calderone. “It’s great to have them. There’s a minimal amount of village services that we have to provide to them and they do provide a substantial amount to the village coffers.”
Sales taxes and property taxes are the two main streams of revenue for Forest Park, which operates on a $21 million annual budget, according to Hoskins. Last year the village took in roughly $2.7 million from sales taxes. Hoskins said that in this fiscal year, so far, sales tax revenues are down 15 percent.
Walmart alone generally accounts for about a quarter of the total sales tax revenue, though the store’s sales have been slightly down in three of the last four months compared to the same time in 2009. Walmart combined with Ultra Foods and other mall businesses make up approximately 35.5 percent of the sales tax revenue and Walgreens adds an additional 2 percent. Currie Motors accounts for roughly 9 percent, while the Dodge dealership brings in nearly 6 percent.
Figures for Kmart were not available, but Hoskins estimated the total would be anywhere from 3.5 to 6 percent. Information for Portillo’s restaurant at the corner of the mall property was also not available but most likely accounts for a couple of percentage points as well.
“Have you ever been to Portillo’s? There is always a line,” Hoskins said, noting how busy the fast food joint usually runs.
The sales tax in Forest Park is 9 percent, and after the tax is divided to various government entities, the village of Forest Park eventually receives 1 percent. In that sense, if one person buys a $30,000 car from a dealership on Roosevelt, that purchase will bring much more revenue to the village compared to a night out on Madison Street.
“You’d have to eat a lot of dinners or drink a lot of beverages to equal the price of one automobile,” Calderone said.
Also, Roosevelt Road businesses, along with their sheer size and longer operating hours, have a specific business market compared to other stores around town, Calderone said.
“That’s a major thoroughfare with a very large volume of traffic,” he said. “That’s why you’ll find a big box store like Walmart or Kmart or Ultra.”
Despite the financial impact from Roosevelt businesses, Village Administrator Tim Gillian said it does not mean one area of town is more important than another.
“If you just look at those parking lots, they can pack a lot of people in there,” Gillian said. “That’s good for us, and that’s good for the community. But so are the mom and pop stores on Madison Street.”
A store on Madison Street could not compare to the $70 to $75 million a year in sales that Walmart generates, Calderone said. However, there is a “uniqueness and charm” to the entrepreneur businesses that line Madison, which makes the street a “destination location” for Forest Park.
These are the shops that make Forest Park known for its small town charm, said Laurie Kokenes, executive director of the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce & Development.
“The personal touches of owner-operated shops on Madison Street and throughout the village play a large part in creating that small town community feel that is so attractive to new residents and businesses,” Kokenes wrote to the Review in an email. “The health of a downtown business district is key to a vibrant community, and it’s important to cultivate that.”
Overall, Calderone said it’s important – and beneficial – for the village to have both types of businesses located in Forest Park.
“In our case, it’s best that we try to strike a balance,” Calderone said. “Collectively, we value all of them.”
Gillian, too, said they actively work on business development with any owner, regardless of the location in town. As one example, he is currently working with Walmart on a potential expansion project, though it’s too soon for details.
“We work with anybody in town who is planning on opening a new business, whether it’s a small retailer on Madison or a larger outfit on Roosevelt,” Gillian said. “We treat them all equally and try to work all of them so that they find a home here.”