Schock gives EP leaders kudos for no federal funding

DeWayne Bartels

Economic development moves in mysterious ways in East Peoria. That delights U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Peoria.

So, what is so mysterious about East Peoria’s approach to economic development?

East Peoria is moving forward with a development plan of more than $25 million without any government funding. Schock, asked by Times Newspapers how he felt about that said he was very pleased.

“I think it shows incredible leadership,” Schock said.

Schock said many central Illinois communities could learn from East Peoria’s economic development example.

“I think East Peoria has demonstrated how economic development can be effective without government subsidies or loans,” Schock said.

Aggressive

So, what is East Peoria doing?

Boiled down to its simplest terms the city is taking an aggressive approach to economic development. The approach includes zoned sales tax districts to help pay off money the city is putting up to spur development. The East Peoria City Council created a development and redevelopment plan to attract Target and Costco. The stores will be the anchors for the development.

A zoned sales tax area means a higher sales tax paid by consumers to purchase items from stores located in the zone. The extra sales tax revenue generated helps pay the incentives the city offered the stores to locate here. An additional occupation tax (sales tax) of 1 percent, was created for the Target Area Business District. Another ordinance created an additional occupation tax (sales tax) of .5 percent for the Costco Area Business District.

Bold moves

Schock said he was impressed by the bold action East Peoria’s leaders took.

“They put together their own plan without seeking a government bailout. East Peoria has a reputation for being business-friendly,” Schock said. “Mayor Mingus and previous administrations have made East Peoria attractive to business. They have attracted businesses others could not.”

Schock laughed as he added, ”You don’t want to get the federal government involved in anything if you don’t have to.”

East Peoria did accept $26 million in funding from the Illinois Department of Transportation for road projects that will, in part, serve the new downtown development. Schock’s office, at the request of Times Newspapers, examined that funding. His office said that funding did not contain any federal stimulus funds.

“The only federal money contained in that funding was Motor Fuel Tax funds,” Schock said. “East Peorians pay those taxes. So, it was East Peorians getting back their own tax dollars.”

Mingus said Schock was right about East Peoria’s approach to economic development being an example to others.

“Municipalities and business should be as independent as possible,” Mingus said.

Mingus also agreed with Schock that leaving the government out of economic development makes sense. He said the strings attached to government money can make it very unattractive.

“First, you have to consider whether government money is available or timely. That’s not good enough for us,” Mingus said. “The only way to assure timely funding is to do it yourself.”