.

Heights Businessman Proposes His Solution to Economic Issues: Community Column

In a new weekly series, local columnists will discuss the issues and topics that matter most to them. This week former Heights business owner, Arthur Wiggins gives his opinion about the economy.

Arthur W. Wiggins has been a businessman, owning retail and wholesale outlets in the south suburbs, since 1990. The first ward resident brought the car audio lines of Eclipse and Soundstream to the south suburbs before any other dealership. He will be writing in the Community Column once per month.

Two things that drive me the most are fair governmental procedures and growing our economy. Chicago Heights is poised to have a great economic structure, but only if the local government understands the capabilities of its assets.

All the fundamental good of having a sound and fair government is obvious to most. I will not write about that this month.

What is not obvious to most is what Chicago Heights is capable of in terms of an economic comeback. The global economy has shifted the Gross Domestic Product of the United States from being primarily manufactured goods to a GDP that is primarily in the service and financial industries. This is evident by checking the manufacturing label of your purchases each week.

Of our commonly purchased items you will notice that barely anything is made in America. The problem with that is when a country does not produce goods, it then relies on other countries to produce its commonly-needed goods.

The issue of not manufacturing is multi-faceted. A key issue is that our blue collar workers, the majority of America, are left with less than middle class employment.

We are at a point that we cannot compete in labor-related manufacturing because of low labor rates in other countries. But what we do have in America is ingenuity and, although this is not a marketable blue collar export, it can lead us to blue collar middle class employment.

Our fossil fuel energy costs are rising at an alarming rate. This is nothing new. Here is where Chicago Heights has an opportunity to change its negative economic situation into a positive one that could affect all of south suburban Chicago and possibly the Midwest as a whole.

In the height of employment in Chicago and its surrounding areas, infrastructures were put in place to sustain this employment. These infrastructures still exist today. For example, our old logistic system of moving goods in and out of our area is close to being the best in the world. These railways, highways, and open borders are now used more to move the citizenry and imports than our own manufactured goods.

Energy is the key to our economic comeback. Renewable energy is the latest buzz word, but it is a real industry. Speaking from a manufacturing standpoint this industry is operating in the billions of dollars around the world, but barely in the millions in our area.

Take a look at Chicago Heights and its entryways. We have Lincoln Highway that connects us to two important interstate highways. We have industrial land, conveniently accessible to these highways. Last, we have railways that connect to every industrial tract of land in our city.

Now we must ask why these logistically correct lands haven't been taken advantage of, seeing that they are so adequately suited for such a manufacturing comeback.

I have come up with two reasons:

1. We do not know how to attract these companies to our city.

2. The land taxes are so high that any savings in manufacturing is immediately consumed.

I would like to approach the ability to attract businesses. In any business, the way it operates is dictated by its income. This does not happen in government, not how business academics defines it. Every business I’ve ever studied or was involved in had some form of marketing attached to its survival.

On a smaller scale, normally land developers would initiate such endeavors. The scope of this is beyond a normal land developer’s competency. Although a local government can accomplish this type of economic marketing and development, this is a proposition that will affect a region and requires local, county and state cooperation to see it happen successfully.

1.  The city, county, and state must ease taxation on:

     -Any company that manufactures renewable energy products.

     -Any company that manufacture efficient energy products.

     -Any company that offers new products from recycled materials.

     -Any company that does research and development for renewable energy products or efficient energy products.

     -Any company that builds new green structures, for residential or commercial purposes, as their primary work.

2. Government must offer land for sale at a deferred and low price.

3. The local government must hire a marketing team:

     -To pursue companies to participate in this renewable energy industrial plan.

     -To sell the idea that their cost will decrease and their profit will increase.

     -To explain the requirements and expectations of each individual company.

4. Local government must buy all the surrounding vacant property:

     -To prevent price gouging

     -To insure beyond zoning, that the land is used in a manner best fitting
the economic interest.

     -To form easements on all purposed land in order to make underground logistics for support companies that will be part of the renewable energy manufacturing city.

The idea that this will not be a free market is false. The purpose of the government participation in this proposition is that of initiation only. The government’s regulatory authority should be no more than it is currently in any other industry.

The employment that would be created not only includes blue collar, but also white collar and scientific jobs. Bringing this type of true economic stimulus would increase ancillary employment exponentially. The amount of non-industry support businesses this plan would attract can only be guesstimated. The residential growth would ease the taxation rate of the city.

If the industrial land is used efficiently, this proposition in Chicago Heights would create employment in the range of 10,000 to 30,000 jobs. We would engage in business that is currently expanding rapidly. More importantly, we would manufacture products that we can compete with in this global economy right now, and for many years to come.

We have everything in Chicago Heights needed to do this, sans the leadership’s understanding of how to get it done. This and other emerging but real industries are what I seek to promote our economic growth with.

Pursuing this industry with the current strict regulation on waste is not only beneficial to Chicago Heights, but also the jump-start our city, state, and nation need.

Ronald May 09, 2011 at 09:36 PM
No offense to Mr. Wiggins, but this is one of the most poorly-written articles I have ever read. I agree with his points about renewable energy, but this piece is nearly unreadable. Mr. Wiggins is probably not a writer by trade, but Patch really needs to get on top of editing these stories so that the syntax is at least somewhat consistent with the generally accepted rules of grammar. That said, I would re-iterate that I 100% agree that renewable energy is crucial to our future as a nation and cities like Chicago Heights would benefit greatly from its growth.
Rusty May 09, 2011 at 10:09 PM
We have two major Ford Motor Company manufacturing facilities located at our back door. You would think the Heights would be able to attract at least one new parts vendor to open shop in this area. Someone just opened a large automotive manufacturing facility in the Monee area. The possibilities are out there. The city needs to assemble a task force that can think outside the box, and come up with these ideas. It's time to get creative and market Chicago Heights as the manufacturing hub it once was. This location is geologically convenient to many large cities. It's time to come up with new ways to attract new manufacturing interests to open up here.
Arthur W. Wiggins Jr. May 09, 2011 at 10:20 PM
Ronald, I am not a writer by trade. Maybe it will improve over the next 12 months? However, I do feel this article is more than adequate in the message I am trying to convey. Arthur W. Wiggins Jr.
Gammie May 09, 2011 at 11:30 PM
Welcome Art! I found your article very informative and articulate! I look forward to more!!!
Mick May 10, 2011 at 02:50 AM
Sorry. High tax rates in Cook County punish businesses. Indiana is five miles away. Will County is adjacent. Chicago Heights crime rates will be factored in. Who wants his company's buildings splashed with grafitti? When you say create jobs, are there any for Chicago Heights residents? Unlike government jobs, which you get by voting for people and putting up signs, companies hire the best, meaning you must have a good resume and valuable experience. Sorry, no shortcuts. Companies hire you if you earn more than they pay you. The Heights will hire you if your uncle voted for them. Everything he asks for is for government to do this and that, but most people, according to recent polls, want government to learn its place. People want government to adopt laissez-faire, and go back to the Constitution. The government should not decide winners and losers, but let the free market do that. The area is great at attracting strip clubs though. The Heights has a reputation for corruption, nepotism, favoritism, and politics. Indiana offers lower tax rates, a favorable business environment, and is far away from Cook County-style politics. If Cook County somehow seems attractive, Lynwood and Glenwood are better options. Government has too much power, and it is nauseating.
Arthur W. Wiggins Jr. May 10, 2011 at 03:05 AM
Thanks Gammie!
Rusty May 10, 2011 at 03:27 AM
Wow Mick, You really should go and check out the multimillion dollar supplier park northeast of Torrence and 130th st. The last time I checked, that is located in Cook County. I think Art is trying to communicate the famous "build it and they will come" business philosophy. Sure, some tax break deals will be inevitable in order to attract these business ventures. Art is fighting to change the way Chicago Heights politicians run the city. We have to start somewhere to plan for the future of this community. I'm glad Art is not a gloom and doomer like you seem to be.
Arthur W. Wiggins Jr. May 10, 2011 at 03:39 AM
Mick, Your comments and critique during the election were always on point. Your comments on my article are correct as well. I did mention in the beginning that government must be sound and fair. I also mentioned that the point of government is to initiate this plan and no more. The government's job is to protect the inalienable rights of its citizens. This is not some philosophical ideal, this is the supreme law of our land as prescribed by our U.S. Constitution. If our government does not enforce laws to prevent illegal activities of everything from graffiti to unfair elections, then that governing body has failed in its duties. It failed by not insuring the citizenry the right to life, liberty, and prosperity( among others). When talking to business owner in Chicago Heights I commonly use the Indiana example to point out Cook County's failures. My point in this article is to bring awareness that we need manufacturing jobs in the United States. To bring awareness that we are significantly under employed. Last, to bring awareness that Chicago Heights has everything to support and grow this type of manufacturing. Answering your question related to source of the work force, such a huge growth in job creation would require unskilled labor which we can supply. One of my bullet points stated " To explain the requirements and expectations of each individual company". One key element of this, is that all of the company's work forces must be 90% Chicago Heights residents.
Arthur W. Wiggins Jr. May 10, 2011 at 03:41 AM
Rusty, I think Mick is just tired of the same old thing. If you read some of the things he wrote during the election he seemed sincere in his concerns... I do appreciate you standing up for my goals Rusty, but I think Mick is OK.
Mick May 10, 2011 at 04:40 AM
Thanks Art. The respect is mutual. As a citizen of District 206 and a southside resident, I am aware of our area's perception. Rusty cites a new development, but it is not in Chicago Heights. There were probably incentives to get it there, meaning the new development will pay less in taxes than the established, loyal, old businesses that have always been there. The schools and other taxing bodies will not get the funds they need so the city can get a business. I was just thinking like a business person and where I would locate. If given a mandate who I must hire and from where, I would put that in the negative column versus locating in another state or town. Before reading your article, I read the Heights crime blotter. Sorry I might be perceived by one person as full of gloom and doom, but another might say I am a realist, but as you know, businesses wishing to locate here will read the same. I share your respect for the U.S. Preamble, have enjoyed your work, and did not want to attack you personally, or your views personally, but point out the perception of Chicago Heights, and what it must overcome. Rusty cites a line from Field of Dreams, but for them to wish to build it here, they will want the basics: low crime, less regulation, lower taxes, good location, nice neighborhoods, decent schools, family values, and a sense of community. If we don't build it, they won't come. Mr. Wiggins--you are an erudite gentleman, and I admire your optimism.
Guido Bam Bing May 10, 2011 at 04:52 AM
Art, I really do support many of your ideas, but I believe that your platform is wrong. You seem to be talking about things on a national and state level. In reality, we can not change all of those issues in a few mayoral terms. We need to look that city as its own individual business/island and do things that best help this city. We cant choose and pick what D.C. or Springfield mandates or votes on. -We have to generate business and create jobs on a local level and offer any incentive possible that can ensure tax revenue. This involves developing strong relationships with land owners and city officials. -We need to look at our public housing and design local policies to help better the city to reduce crime and decline in property value. -We need to develop tax revenue so that vital city services like school, police, fire, and streets can serve their residents timely and in an modern age. This involves including all stake-holders in the process and quit the crying of local residents. We need to future and solution orientated. So many people complain about the heights but dont do a thing to help the town. They just jaw jack. Well its time to do something about it. Not one man, city council, or neighborhood has all the answers. We all need to come together and we realize that we share a common goal: To make the city great. Everybody needs to vested into this. Lets bring all of the talents and strengths of are residents together.
Arthur W. Wiggins Jr. May 10, 2011 at 11:49 AM
Thank you for you comment. I do appreciate the dialogue.
Arthur W. Wiggins Jr. May 10, 2011 at 11:54 AM
Rusty you are 100% correct. My proposition, in our cities current state, is nothing but a pipe dream. This is not something by itself that will be successful without criminal intervention and a government that strictly adheres to the wide and varied representation of itself. When anyone undermines the principles of how our government is meant to be established, normally support for any thing good in that governed body will fail. I holdout belief that blatant wrongs I see will be corrected, in that sense I could be wrong and Chicago Heights residents will continue to suffer a dismal and negligent life. On a lighter note thanks for the compliment. Guido Bam Bing You make very valid points, I would like to point out three things: 1) Local government has more control than State or Federal over its decisions, successes, and failures. 2) Greed is a powerful motivator. I can assure you from many of my professional experiences that people follows and do what is best to ensure the continual flow of money. Nothing would be different in the case of State and Federal participation in making an economic engine like this in Chicago Heights. One great example is the proposed South Suburban airport. Even better Mayor Daley's expenditure for the Olympics in Chicago, did you notice how many people in the state and federal government came to his side. 3) Residents have a right to complain, we need clear direction on the repair of our business community. This should be their concern.
Rusty May 10, 2011 at 01:28 PM
Mick, Welcome to the future. I don't know of any large corporation that doesn't factor tax break incentives into the equation when relocating to a new area. You make a good point by offering the perspective of a business man. I was mearly thinking like an economist. New business ventures bring economic value by way of spin-off jobs and value added taxes. An economist might view the whole picture and not just the tax dollars lost from tax breaks. A large venture adds to a community in the long run by attracting additional business ventures. The economic trickle down can be felt by local gas stations, food vendors, car repair shops, retail stores, and any other venture I did not mention. I like to use Ford as an example because they are in the process of shifting additional production to the Chicagoland area. Chicago Heights needs to be on alert for any supply chain ventures that could benefit from locating in the area. I don't think this concept is out of reach.
Mick May 10, 2011 at 02:11 PM
Rusty, it is not the future, but the past. TIF's, tax abatements, and other incentives to attract business are the past and present. But, the victims are the schools most of the time. I agree with you about the trickle around effect, and that the economist view is valid, but I keep going back to the business person's first question: why Chicago Heights? I would imagine that the Heights has been trying to attract businesses, with these incentives, for decades, but the problem is other towns are not going to take it lying down. Case in point: a large plant in Monee, or a mulitmillion dollar facility on 130th and Torrence. Chicago Heights needs to be on alert and the concept is not out of reach, but Indiana and Will County have the same alertness and conception. It's easy to discuss what the Heights must do, and dream, but in reality, Heights residents do their shopping in Orland Park.

Boards

More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something