Bloomington aldermen say they’d rather evenly split the cost of supporting a new small-business development center at Illinois Wesleyan University rather than picking up most of the tab.
The Bloomington City Council voted 6-2 on Monday to provide $61,845 in funding over the next three years to the Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC) of McLean County. That would be half of the $123,690 that the SBDC has asked the city and the Town of Normal to provide.
That 50-50 split was a sticking point during Monday’s vote. A 60-40 split was also discussed, a nod to Bloomington having more residents than Normal. In that scenario, Bloomington would have provided $24,738 more than the town over the three years. Bloomington aldermen on Monday elected to go with the 50-50 split, meaning it’ll cost Normal more money.
Speaking Tuesday on GLT’s Sound Ideas, Renner said he was disappointed that aldermen didn’t go with the 60-40 split. In the wake of the MetroZone tax-sharing dispute that’s lead to frosty relations between the two communities, Renner said 60-40 would have been a symbolic move.
“We want to foster trust in intergovernmental relations. And so that was disappointing to me,” he said. “I wish we’d have pursued this at the 60-40 level for no other reason than to say this is standard operating procedure (for bilateral economic development agreements), and not to make it seem like there was a slap at the Town of Normal. This was not meant this way.”
The Small Business Development Center opened at IWU in March. Most of its funding comes from an annual grant from the state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, which passes federal funding through from the federal Small Business Administration.
Renner said the SBDC’s role is very different from the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council (EDC) and the city’s own economic development coordinator.
“It works individually and helps train and nurture people who are interested in developing small businesses,” Renner said. “Small businesses are the backbone of this and virtually every community.”
Alderman Amelia Buragas and Diana Hauman voted against the 50-50 funding plan. Alderman Karen Schmidt, who works at Illinois Wesleyan University, recused herself.
The Normal Town Council is expected to consider the SBDC funding at a December meeting. It’s unclear how the council will react to the 50-50 decision by the Bloomington council.
You can also listen to GLT's full interview with Renner:
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