Tired of seeing his community compete with its neighbors and lose business to larger, more established retail markets, Beach Park Village Manager Jon Kindseth decided he was done going solo.
He joined with leaders of Winthrop Harbor and Zion to sign an intergovernmental agreement allowing the three communities to hire a shared economic development coordinator to market their municipalities as one, with the caveat that all three will benefit from any sales tax earned by businesses the new coordinator brings to the area.
“Instead of competing for the same retailers who are trying to pit us against each other to get the largest incentive, we decided to look at ourselves as one market area,” Kindseth said. “It really breaks down that competition and ‘race to the bottom’ between municipalities.”
It’s a relatively new idea within the Chicago region, but one that is happening elsewhere in the country. For a small, newer community like north suburban Beach Park, Kindseth saw the benefits of working with others for the benefit of all.
And the shared coordinator is not the only way Beach Park is exploring partnerships with its neighbors as a way to increase efficiency and municipal capacity. The Village also contracts some of its services such as police or animal control to the county or township, while working with its neighbors on services like snow plowing or street sweeping.
With 284 municipalities and even more units of government in the Chicago region, Kindseth said more of these shared service agreements will be necessary in the future.
“If government still looks the same way it looks today in 2050, I would consider that to be an unsustainable model. The isolation of every town doing its own thing and competing with each other has worked in the past, but it will not work in the future,” he said. “Sharing services allows governments to reduce operating costs, retain our unique identities as communities, creates experts of our staff, but most importantly, saves money for the taxpayers.”