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Worth hires economic development director

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Updated: November 19, 2013 2:37PM



Tired of seeing empty storefronts and vacant lots along its main thoroughfares, the Worth Village Board has hired an economic development director who, officials hope, will bring new businesses to town.

The board approved the hiring of Wayne Pesek, of Melrose Park-based Napco, to take the reins of economic development. He will be paid $4,000 a month as an independent consultant, Worth Mayor Mary Werner said.

“We’re thinking we need sort of a jump start. This is something our economic development committee has been asking for for a few years,” Werner said.

She and village Trustee Colleen McElroy, who oversees the economic development commission, met several times with Pesek.

“We drove around the village a couple of times with him. We just thought it would be helpful to get a fresh set of eyes because sometimes, when you are here every day and you drive up and down the same streets, sometimes you miss things,” Werner said.

Pesek will report to the commission and mayor and “make some recommendations,” Werner said.

“One of the first places we took him to was our TIF (special-taxing) district, and you could almost see the wheels turning in his head as he envisioned things that none of us were probably seeing,” Werner said.

The meandering district includes 111th Street, east of the tollway.

“He’s got over 30 years in economic development, so we’re very happy to have him on board,” Werner said of Pesek.

McElroy said that Pesek “seems like he’s hitting the ground running.”

The village, she noted, does not have a planner or economic development expert on staff.

“It helps to have someone with his experience,” she said.

Pesek welcomes the challenge.

The “primary target” is to “bring about and attract new businesses, and assist any existing businesses that would like to expand,” Pesek said in a phone interview.

He will be a liaison between the village, developers and land owners, trying to “generate new revenue sources to the village,” he said.

“Presently there are no large parcels available that are sitting vacant. However, there may be opportunities to identify properties that may be able to be assembled to create larger parcels to, in turn, attract larger potential businesses that require a greater footprint,” he said.

Werner mentioned the southwest corner of Ridgeland Avenue and 111th Street as a possible development site.

Looks are deceiving.

“That corner is only three acres. It’s kind of a fooler,” Pesek said.

There are other sites, though, some with vacant storefronts, that are ripe for development, he said. Some could be cobbled together to form larger sites.

“Up and down 111th and Harlem, you have the conventional strip centers, the independent operators, if you will,” Pesek said, adding he hopes to bring in national fast-food franchises that would be owned independently.

“We’ll be canvassing all the national chains to invite their interest, to show them properties that would meet their requisites in regards to square footage and parking,” Pesek said.

Development takes time, he cautioned, so residents shouldn’t expect to see new businesses popping up overnight.

“It takes at least four to six months, and that’s not going through planning and zoning reviews, but we’ll get things in motion. As we generate interest, that should generate interest in other bystanders who say, ‘We want to be there, too,’ ” Pesek said.

Then there’s the competition from Oak Lawn, Chicago Ridge, Orland Park and other Southland communities. Everyone is itching for economic development.

“A number of communities are competing to attract businesses. ... but the proactiveness of being able to promote the community, to have meaningful conversations between investors, developers, and the like, all serve to put a face with a voice that you otherwise wouldn’t talk to on the phone, so you’re able to genuinely assist these people,” he said.

One site that’s already caught his eye is the Metra train station near 111th Street and Harlem Avenue.

“There’s a large field of parking, a large number of commuters who come to the village on a daily basis. We’ll look at some of the properties (near) the Metra station to bring about businesses that would support that use as well,” he said.

Napco provides project administration and construction management services, he said, serving as a “consultant for the private and public sector ownerships and public entities.”

Residents often tell McElroy they would like to see “a nice family restaurant, a national chain.” She is looking for businesses that can help increase sales taxes collected by the village.



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