Business Development A Major Issue For Danville Mayoral Candidates
Business development in Danville will be a hot topic for next week's mayoral candidates James "Mouse" McMahon and incumbent Scott Eisenhauer.
The loss of factory jobs in recent years has caused many people to leave Danville. The city population has gone from a peak of 42,570 in the 1970s Census to a 2012 Census estimate of 32,649.
McMahon, a business owner and former Vermilion County Board Chairman, ran for Danville mayor four years ago, coming in second in a four-way race. He says that local businesspeople tell him the city of Danville is hard to work with, on things like zoning and getting plans approved.
McMahon says, "Let’s treat our local businesses that are already there, a helping hand, so they can expand, to be able to hire one, two or three people. And you know what? All of our problems, mathematically, our evaluation of our homes, everything, the blight, everything, will be fixed if we all had jobs."
Mayor Scott Eisenhauer, who’s seeking a 4th term in office, says if the city was hard to deal with, it wouldn’t have already attracted so many new retail outlets to North Vermilion Street in recent years, including Kohl’s, Meijer, TJ Maxx and Dunham’s Sports.
We’ve put incentives on the table, not just for businesses, but also for the use of local contractors, so we can make sure they’re getting some of the work on these businesses that are coming into the community", said Eisenhauer. “If we were a difficult community to deal with, I would not have in my office, now on a weekly basis, businesses and developers interested in investing in the city of Danville.”
The mayor says he also wants to attract commercial development to Danville’s East Main Street corridor, where it could benefit from traffic generated by the nearby VA hospital and Danville Area Community College. Eisenhauser says part of the preperation for new development would include what he calls "de-densification".
“We’re going to have to demolish some of the existing dilapidated structures and make some room, if you will, for that commercial development to occur,” said Eisenhauer.
But McMahon says if elected, he’d work with developers to re-invest in vacant housing stock, not tear it down.
“We got to make it so that we don’t red-tape them out of business, but give them a helping hand on how and what they need to get this property up to code," said McMahon, "so that they can rent it out, make an investment for someone who needs a place to live. And the ones where the properties are just too far gone, then I’m all in favor of demolishing. But let’s try to bring that back onto the tax roll, before we take it off the tax roll for ever and ever and ever
Both McMahon and Eisenhauer says they’d work to bring more jobs to Danville. McMahon says Danville's population might one day move back up, if the mayor took a more active role in the city's economic development. But Eisenhauer says a return to Danville's earlier population levels is unlikely, given what he says is Illinois' inability to compete for the sort of factory jobs it used to have. He says that barring a change in state policies, Danville needs to make the most of its current size for the foreseeable future.