Chairman Cronin's Address to DuPage Business Leaders
Posted: January 5, 2019
Hosted by Chamber630 in conjunction with Choose DuPage and other area Chambers, the annual State of DuPage County luncheon took place on January 9th. At the event, Chairman Cronin addressed an audience of DuPage business leaders on the County’s efforts to save taxpayer dollars, attract more businesses to DuPage County, and discuss the many opportunities 2019 will bring.
CHAIRMAN CRONIN’S STATE OF THE COUNTRY ADDRESS
“Thank you. I welcome this opportunity because we consider our relationship with the business community central to our success here in DuPage County.
Welcome to 2019 everyone! I hope you had a joyful holiday season. I hope Santa Claus was nice to everyone. The New Year provides us with a fresh start…a clean slate.
What do we hope to accomplish in 2019?
In my position as County Board Chairman, I now have six new colleagues who were newly-elected to the Board on November 6th. Some folks have whispered to me, “Cronin, those new members…they’re not Republicans. How’s that going to work?”
I remind them that in my 20 years in Springfield, I spent most of that time….in the MINORITY party…so I have a lot of experience with reaching across the aisle to get things done.
And that’s the job. Getting things done, solving problems, moving DuPage County ever forward.
As I head into my third term as Chairman, I can say we’ve done a pretty good job making DuPage County government work more efficiently on behalf of taxpayers. Let me explain what I mean.
First…many of you know of our focus on reducing the size, scope and cost of government through our ACT Initiative. ACT stands for Accountability, Consolidation and Transparency.
By the end of 2019 we will have dissolved seven local units of government. Through extensive study and working in collaboration with these local entities, we determined their services could be provided in a more efficient manner by another unit of government. Two of those entities are in the southeast portion of the county. This fall, a trustee in dissolution was appointed to finalize the North Westmont Fire Protection District dissolution process. And this year, the same process will finally dissolve the Highland Hills Sanitary District, as the County provides those residents Lake Michigan water now, and Flagg Creek Sanitary District will provide sewer service. The DuPage County Board and our Public Works Department were instrumental in ensuring a smooth transition to Lake Michigan water for the residents in that unincorporated Lombard subdivision. We’ve heard from many who are thrilled with the big improvement in water service.
These changes are possible because we imagined that local government could look and work differently to better serve people. In my first term in office, we passed legislation allowing DuPage to become the only county allowed to dissolve some small units of local government. Now, the seven entities dissolved will no longer appear on DuPage County tax bills. In November of 2018, 86% of voters told us they were in favor of DuPage County continuing efforts to consolidate and reduce the cost of local government. And the effort has caught on with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle sponsoring legislation to take this approach to the other 101 counties in Illinois. It’s a small but important step we can take to make government work more efficiently…saving taxpayer dollars.
For the eleventh year in a row, we balanced our budget and managed to keep the tax levy flat at $66.9 million dollars. I’ll remind you that the County government portion of your property tax bill is less than 3%. While providing an outstanding level of service, we do everything we can to create as “low-tax” an environment as we can, within the borders of Illinois. We try to make our county an attractive place for businesses to locate, grow and thrive.
And that strategy pays off. John Carpenter, CEO of Choose DuPage, our County’s economic development organization reports some very compelling statistics and trends.
- Real Estate Journal recently mentioned DuPage County as a “hot location” for industrial activity and cited the opportunity DuPage presents to corporations looking for warehouses, distribution and manufacturing centers.
- The county was named one of the top 12 manufacturing communities in the nation and thanks to a regional partnership with Cook and the other collar counties, businesses know we have access to $1.3 billion in federal grants through the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership Initiative. Because of this, the magazine writes, “DuPage County could be a hub for new manufacturing developments well into 2019 and beyond.”
- We’ve seen important economic development out at the DuPage Airport. This August, I broke ground at the DuPage Business Center in West Chicago with representatives from Suncast, Norix and Greco Brothers, who invested more than $13.8 million to develop more than a million square feet of space. Their collective investment in DuPage County will create 400 permanent jobs with an estimated economic impact of $94 million dollars.
- And we’re excited about companies like Green Bay Packaging which broke ground this fall on a new 170-thousand-foot state-of-the-art distribution center in Downers Grove that will house a high-tech design department as well as expand warehouse capabilities.
- Economic indicators still provide welcome news about DuPage County…which is good news as we all hang on to our 401K’s during the market’s tumultuous ride. Unemployment hit historic lows here in 2018 and remains remarkably low at just 2.9%. Our industrial vacancy rate is also among the lowest in the region and particularly around O’Hare, with the completion of Illinois 390, demand is very high…that demand is sending companies looking for appropriate expansion opportunities our way, and we welcome them.
But we’re not content to rest on our laurels. We’re heading into 2019 with some ambitious goals.
Last March, voters told us they were in favor of consolidating our DuPage Election Commission and our County Clerk’s office to improve efficiency and save taxpayer dollars. After two rounds in the General Assembly, we worked in a bipartisan manner and passed a bill …which the Governor signed into law here in DuPage County… giving the County Board the ability to dissolve the Election Commission and roll its duties into the County Clerk’s office. This model is used in almost every other County in Illinois. The City of Aurora, led by Mayor Richard Irvin, did the same thing and their City Council voted to eliminate their Election Commission. We intend to dissolve our Election Commission this year. This effort is the culmination of work I’ve been doing since I was elected in 2010. Just a reminder…a series of reforms at the Election Commission, ending in its dissolution, will have netted DuPage taxpayers more than $3 million in savings. More importantly, the goal is to offer one-stop shopping at the County Clerk’s Office and improve customer service for all residents.
As you can see, we are focusing on areas of service that have a direct benefit to the community. We’ve been focused on the health of our residents, particularly those who live near the Sterigenics Willowbrook facility. Since the first news about ethylene oxide being emitted into the air surfaced in August, I’ve been immersed in the issue. I traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with the EPA to demand answers. I’ve authored letters with federal, state and local lawmakers and elected officials demanding the facility be shut down unless and until there’s a way for it to operate safely. I’m in constant contact with State’s Attorney Berlin, the Attorney General’s office, your own Senator John Curran and Leader Jim Durkin as we have the health and safety of our residents…at the top of our minds. Our health department worked with the Illinois E.P.A to test well water for those living closest to the plant, to ensure no by-products are showing up in drinking water. Listen, I am all for helping business thrive in our county, but I simply won’t tolerate a business that doesn’t put the health and safety of our residents first and foremost. I know I speak for all of you when I say we expect our businesses to be good neighbors.
On the same topic…the health and safety of DuPage…In FY 2019, our line item funding the Heroin Opioid Prevention Education task force remains consistent at $100,000. I’m pleased to say that with our DuPage Public Health Department taking the lead, our ability to collaborate and fight the scourge of opioid and heroin addiction in our county is more effective. Since our RX Box program launched in 2009, DuPage has collected 48 tons of unused medication removing it from our landfills, water supply and most importantly from potential abuse. This successful program has now expanded to 41 locations throughout the county.
And finally, as I mentioned at the beginning of my talk, I was recently sworn into to office to begin my third term as Chairman. Our Inauguration ceremony is always an exciting evening. But, one of the high points of the evening was the few minutes I had reserved to meet with Jesse Hernandez, ahead of the ceremony. Jesse is the first person who worked as an intern in a new program we started between DuPage County and Turning Pointe Autism Foundation in Naperville. Turning Pointe helps people with autism develop job skills, so they can be employed. Earlier this year, we partnered with Turning Pointe to provide internships for people like Jesse who needed work experience. Well, it turns out, the internship has gone wonderfully, and Jesse has joined County as a member of our housekeeping staff. It’s a small step in a program that we hope will grow by leaps and bounds. Having Jesse as an employee reminds me, that in my role as Chairman, I can help create connections between people in need and opportunity. It’s hard for me to describe how important a job is to a family who’s not sure what the future holds for their beloved son or daughter. I can guarantee you, connecting people with disabilities… to jobs in their community…is one of the most important aspects I treasure in my role as a public servant.
So, I’ve sketched out our plans for the year ahead, identified the rocks, both big and small, that I intend to move. I’m optimistic about the year ahead. 2019 will bring new opportunities and a path to progress to DuPage. I’m grateful to have the support of business leaders like you. And I deeply appreciate your kind attention and the opportunity to talk with you. I welcome your questions and thoughts. Thank you.”
-Chairman Dan Cronin, DuPage County Board