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By a split vote, aldermen approved the hiring of a new economic development director to help entice businesses to Evanston. With the retirement of Assistant City Manager Judith Aiello, the City needs someone who will be “proactive” in fostering economic growth here, Ms. Carroll said.
Alderman Rainey, 8th Ward, opposed the addition of the economic development director position. She proposed using the money that will now fund the position to help ease the property tax increase. “I do not believe it’s the time to hire a new person,” she said, adding that City staff members in the planning and community development departments would be more than able to perform the functions of an economic development director. While not supporting the position for this year’s budget, she said, “I will fully support this position in next year’s budget.”
Ms. Carroll said the economic development director would be the person to help the City break out of the condo-retail building model. “I don’t see [that model] as sustaining us. … We have a world-class university in our back yard. We have some of the [greatest] intellectual capital at Northwestern University. We need to be a player in the region, and we can’t do that just by building buildings. Staff has not had time to take a proactive approach [to economic development], but it is very crucial to the financial success of this City,” Ms. Carroll said.
Aldermen Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, and Edmund Moran, 6th Ward, agreed. “We’ve created a framework [for economic development] with the West Side and Central Street plans. The implementation phase is a story that is yet to be told.”
Ald. Wynne opposed any delay in hiring the economic development director. “We’re not a community that sells very easily in economic development. Especially now, with the economy, we have to be more proactive about our community.”