Batavia residents, businesses and organizations are helping the city create a new economic development strategic plan by participating in a series of focus groups.
The purpose of the plan is to help the city attract, retain and support local businesses in Batavia.
According to Shannon Malik Jarmusz, Batavia’s economic development manager, the city has never had a strategic development plan.
She said the information-gathering process will take place over three “SWOT analysis meetings”. SWOT stands for “Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats” within the Batavia business community.
“We’re really interested in hearing from our community,” Jarmusz said. “The business community, first and foremost, who this plan will apply to. But we’re also going to have a more general focus group so we can get feedback from a smaller group of residents as well.”
The first meeting with the Batavia Chamber of Commerce board was held May 5, and the second meeting with Batavia MainStreet board members is scheduled for Friday, Jarmusz said.
Jarmusz said the third meeting will be with a group of residents, tax agency representatives and other business owners, and will likely take place in June.
“Then we will need time to collate and organize the comments from the three groups and turn them into something intelligible that we can bring back to the [city] council,” she said. “Once this has been passed through the board to hear all analysis and feedback to ensure we are aligned in terms of the priorities of all groups, we can then provide a little more of an idea on the next steps. coming.”
According to Jarmusz, feedback from the sessions will inform how the city will increase new business retention through economic development and support programs.
“When we talk about programming, it’s not necessarily like, ‘Here’s money for XYZ,'” she said. “We may be talking about ‘Hey, how can we make our process more user-friendly?'”
Jarmusz said the city’s existing programs have successfully helped businesses in Batavia.
“The city has for years had a number of TIF neighborhoods which are the ‘Tax Increase Funding Neighborhoods’, which have successfully helped develop our downtown and provide public improvements to support these steps and in restaurants and retail,” she said. “We have an economic and development incentive for large users of our electric utility.”
The State of Illinois allows municipalities to “designate areas within their jurisdiction as tax increment financing (TIF) districts. These districts earmark sales tax revenue and additional property tax revenue generated within the TIF for improvements in the district to encourage further economic development and job creation.”
Existing TIF districts have also enabled the creation of business development funding, including signage and facade grant programs.
“We may have comments on whether [existing programs] are adequate or if there might be interest in another category that hasn’t been considered before,” Jarmusz said.
She said the ultimate goal of this plan is to continue nurturing Batavia’s business community.
“I just think the message should be loud and clear that we’re in a unique time,” Jarmusz said. “We were lucky that the city of Batavia was extremely busy and generated a lot of interest.”