Jo Daviess/Carroll County Local Redevelopment Authority At a Glance
By MICHAEL MILLER | For The Prairie Advocate News
People often hear rumors about new businesses “going in at the Depot”, whether they pan out or not, and one might reasonably wonder what that process is like, who oversees it, what the requirements and rules are for the governing body and who reports to whom about what.
Most of those questions can be answered by looking at the group that’s tasked to facilitate this process, the Jo-Carroll Depot Park Local Redevelopment Authority.
The Jo-Carroll Depot Park Local Redevelopment Authority (commonly known as the “LRA”) was established in 1997 by an intergovernmental agreement between Jo Daviess and Carroll Counties in Illinois. The LRA’s stated purpose is to “receive property from the Army on behalf of Jo Daviess and Carroll Counties and lease and/or sell it for long term job creation and economic development.” The LRA has powers and duties granted to it from the two counties. The LRA has the authority to implement the reuse plan (of the Depot area) and also to amend that plan as it deems necessary. Its authority includes “the right to receive property and oversee and implement the civilian reuse. This authority was specified in a Memorandum of Agreement with the Department of the Army which was signed on August 22nd, 2003.
Four representatives from each county comprise the eight member LRA Board. LRA committees report to each County Board and the U.S. Army. Members are chosen by the LRA Chairman. There are presently three LRA Board committees; Finance and Personnel, Infrastructure, and Economic Development. Jo Daviess County LRA Board members include Don Crawford of Hanover, Ron Smith of Galena, Steve Keefer of Hanover, and Bill McFadden of Apple River. Carroll County board members include Paul Hartman, Bill Robinson, William Wright and Bill McCormick, all of Savanna.
Incentives for businesses wishing to buy or lease property within the Depot Park include the presence of an enterprise zone which provides tax incentives, properties below market rate prices, an interchange with the BNSF Railway, the presence of a Port Authority, and the ongoing installation of iFiber services to the area.
LRA and Carroll County Board member Paul Hartman says the LRA Board’s purpose is to retail the area and make it economically sound, and have total control over this function. The two counties don’t get involved in this process, other than to put their respective four members on the Board itself. The LRA’s revenue source is primarily the sale of property, as well as the leasing of property, Hartman says. However, the more property is sold, the more limited the funding is because you lose potential sources of leasing and funding. The county benefits if a businesses purchases property and then becomes a taxpayer.
Hartman says that there are sometimes misconceptions about what might await a prospective property owner or leasee at the Depot. He says that many businesses haven’t been successful at the Park because they approach it with the wrong attitude; “they think there’s going to be free this or free that, and there’s not. They have to pay for the land acquisition and rarely, some other things.” He says that businesses need to prove to the LRA that they can improve their business, which is measured by number of employees hired, and that in their zeal to prove this to the LRA, businesses often overestimate those figures. He goes on to say that often businesses are discouraged by other factors, too, such as what might be years to clean up the property, depending on estimates from the Army. He cites Riverport Railroad, who presently owns more property than any other business at the Depot Park, as an example of a business that has bucked this trend, and has managed to be successful in their stay at the Depot.
Where does the LRA go from here? Stay tuned to future reports on the state of the park, the processes required to purchase and develop property and the sale of the Depot water and sewer systems.