Where is business better?

By Anna Carrera

Published 10/24 2013 05:35PM

Updated 10/25 2013 10:11AM

CHAMPAIGN -- The county's chamber of commerce told the city council the business climate is better somewhere else. The deputy mayor says he was surprised to hear that, coming from someone who represents business people in our area.

According to a Forbes ranking, Bloomington is about 50 spots higher than Champaign on a list of the best small places for business. But Champaign city leaders say business is booming and they expect to see even more in the future.

The money going in and out of our local economy can be a touchy subject.

"Our job is always trying to achieve the right balance between taking away people's money from them by force, taxing people, and how are we going to spend it?" said Champaign Deputy Mayor Tom Bruno.

So when Champaign County's Chamber of Commerce told city leaders the business climate in Champaign doesn't quite match up with ones in other cities, it got their attention.

"I just think it's a strange position for the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce to make a public statement that the business climate is somehow better in another county," said Bruno.

Bruno says he's seen similar push-back from the chamber about other issues.

"One focus of lower taxes, lower taxes, lower taxes," said Bruno.

"It's not about cutting taxes," said Champaign County Chamber of Commerce president Laura Weis. "In order to balance a budget you have to look at both revenues and expenses."

Chamber members want change in the city's budget.

"The economy is better than it was in 2008, but I don't think we're there yet," said Weis. "I think we have a little ways to go."

It includes adjusting the way Champaign deals with pensions and eliminating automatic wage increases.

"That's not to say we're doing things bad," said Weis. "That's simply saying, 'let's look at how we're doing things. Let's compare ourselves. Let's look where we can improve things and let's celebrate the things that we are doing well.'"

But both sides agree, they want to find a way to move forward together to keep Champaign growing.

Also in that Forbes report, Bloomington has the edge on Champaign when it comes to job growth, but Champaign's gross metro product is higher; $12.1 billion. It includes how much the city's goods and services are worth during the span of a year.

Millions of dollars in projects are in the works around the city of Champaign. That includes the 9-story Hyatt Hotel being built downtown. That should be finished next year.

In campustown, a Marriott Hotel complex is going up. It will have retail space, student housing and a parking garage. The Kraft factory on Mattis Avenue in northwest Champaign is also planning to expand.

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