Synchronicity! Even as the Review editorialized about the need to reenergize economic development and marketing efforts along Madison Street, the mayor was convening a group of local business owners to talk over how to rekindle the positive energy the street exhibited in the years before the economic downturn.
We applaud that effort by the mayor. But we would urge that he not simply try to replicate a magical time on Madison. It was an organic energy brought about by the confluence of some truly remarkable people backed by village government support.
This is a different moment and different solutions are needed. Calderone is right to be looking at the Berwyn Development Corporation and its interesting melding of independent economic development professionals working in tandem with village hall. The BDC has also enveloped the local chamber of commerce and its focus on marketing and events. Two lessons: Berwyn is considerably bigger than Forest Park and has more resources. Also, independence from Berwyn’s city hall has made the Berwyn effort so vital.
Calderone also said he’s looking at the reinvigorated Oak Park Economic Development Corporation. We’d suggest that he hold off until it is proven that Oak Park has figured this model out. In Oak Park they’ve basically copied the BDC model.
A more comparable case study might be the efforts of River Forest’s new village president Cathy Adduci. She has set up a volunteer Economic Development Commission and charged it with being the front line on recruiting and vetting potential developments on key sites. They’ve already got commissioned corridor studies of commercial strips in town. Adduci, like Calderone, is working in a smaller community that can’t afford a costly development corporation. She has also tapped a rich vein of commercial development talent who call River Forest home.
Is Calderone ready to broaden the power base, share the leadership and look for actual expertise and experience and give those people some room to roam?
Good for Mayor Calderone for seeing a need and working toward filling it. Now does he have the confidence to open the doors wide and invite some independent people to share the stage?