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By Anna Lothson
Oak Park Development Corporation has seen storefront occupancy rates increase the past few years, despite a lagging economy. That was one of many successes celebrated at the group's annual meeting on Feb. 6.
President Sara Faust outlined a "remarkable year of growth" at OPDC as the local economy continues to bounce back from 2008. She recognized businesses that closed and highlighted others that joined the community.
She praised her colleagues and those who have continued to support the economic development organization in Oak Park. She also invited Oak Park's business services manager, Loretta Daly, to share her thoughts on the year.
"The business community is a pillar in Oak Park and our ability to support it and work closely with you is truly a joy every day," said Daly, noting that the relationship between the village and OPDC has continued to strengthen as the two groups work on defining ways to build a stronger economy, including recruitment plans, weekly meetings and working through loan programs together, among other projects.
Faust said OPDC is working to retain current businesses and assist them in getting more space and new opportunities when needed. In 2012, more leases were signed and news businesses moved in. The occupancy rate across the village is 91 percent, which represents 3 percent growth in two years.
Efforts have become more targeted, Faust said, and OPDC has created a more organized front to work with developers and business owners. The 2012 Broker and Developer Tour was one event that Faust and Daly praised as being helpful in promoting Oak Park.
Among the speakers was Mary Ludgin, director of global investment research at Heitman, a real estate investment firm, who addressed the challenges of the current market and how high taxes and lease issues can impact community growth. Still, the night remained upbeat, emphasizing optimism for future growth in Oak Park.
Faust mentioned the following accomplishments: building better relationships with tenants, brokers and developers; knowledge gained through data gathering and analysis; increased communication with the village; widespread impact of technology; initiating a green business assistance program; and finding resources through newly formed collaborations and strategic alliances, among others.
"The investment of many in the Oak Park Development Corporation makes our role as the catalyst for economic growth possible," Faust wrote in a letter. "Our partnership with the village is key. The work in and amongst the numerous business associations bolster support for the entrepreneurial spirit."
To read more from OPDC's annual report, visit oakparkdevelopmentcorporation.com.