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 Batavia Economic Development Manager Shannon Malik Jarmusz, 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 are really interested in hearing from our community,” Jarmusz said. “The business community, first and foremost that this plan will apply to. But we are also going to have a more general focus group so that we can also capture feedback from a smaller group of residents.”
The first meeting with the Batavia Chamber of Commerce board was May 5, and the second meeting with members of the Batavia MainStreet board of directors is set for Friday, Jarmusz said.
Jarmusz said the third meeting will be with a group of residents, taxing body representatives and other business owners, and will likely take place in June.
“Then we’re going to need some time to collate and organize the three groups’ feedback and make it into something intelligible for us to bring back to the [city] council,” she said. “Once this has gone through the council to hear all the analysis and feedback to make sure we’re aligned in terms of priorities from all the groups, then we’ll be able to provide a little bit more of an idea on the next steps moving forward.”
According to Jarmusz, feedback from the sessions will inform how the city will increase new business retention through economic development programs and support.
“When we’re talking about programming, it’s not necessarily like ‘Here’s some money for XYZ,'” she said. “It could be that we’re talking about, ‘Hey, how can we make our process more user-friendly?'”
Jarmusz said the city’s existing programs have successfully aided Batavia businesses.
“The city for years has had a number of TIF districts which is the ‘tax increment financing districts,’ which has been successfully helping to grow our downtown and make public improvements to support getting those footsteps and into restaurants and retail,” she said. “We do have an economic and development incentive for high volume users of our electrical utility.”
The state of Illinois allows municipalities to “designate areas within their jurisdiction as Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts. These districts dedicate sales tax revenues and additional property tax revenues generated within the TIF for improvements within the district to encourage new economic development and job creation.”
Existing TIF districts have also allowed for the creation of business development funding, including signage and facade grant programs.
“We might get some feedback on whether [existing programs] are adequate or whether there might be interest in another category that hasn’t been contemplated before,” Jarmusz said.
She said that plan’s goal ultimately is to continue nurturing Batavia’s business community.
“I just think the message should be loud and clear that we are in a unique time,” Jarmusz said. “We’ve been fortunate that the city of Batavia has been extremely busy and has had a lot of interest.”