The Economic Development Authority (EDA) will be seeking community engagement in the coming months as they reenvision the projects needed for economic growth in Cook County.
In the latest August 9 EDA meeting, Beth Drost, EDA executive director, introduced the idea of strategic planning. Drost intends to create a community focus group to source feedback and identify the needs of the community.
The EDA will use the feedback as they plan for future projects and development.
One of the identified areas of focus for the EDA is childcare. Drost said that a childcare focus group comprised of members of the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic, Cooperation Station, YMCA, private businesses, and individuals are taking the initiative to find childcare solutions in the community.
“They’re all coming with the goal of providing more childcare slots, increasing the pay for our childcare workers, and also making childcare more affordable for and higher quality for all of our parents,” said Drost.
The childcare focus group is applying for a DEED Childcare Economic Development Grant Program to fund the projects. In addition, the group went in front of the Public Health and Human Services Board on August 10 during a special meeting to request additional funding.
Drost said the childcare focus group wants to see ”How the county can help fund childcare providers and maybe help get us to entice people to work more in the field.”
The Public Health and Human Services Board continued the discussion during an August 16 meeting. The board approved 4-1 to fund up to $360,000 for the Rural Child Care Innovation Program (RCCIP). The funding will provide subsidies to childcare providers and the hire of a childcare coordinator position.
In other EDA news, activity has picked up at the Cedar Grove Business Park. During the meeting, the EDA approved two offers on separate lots, one offer from Fika Coffee and another from co-owners Cornerstone Design Build and Sue Nichols. The two lots will go before a public hearing before the sales are finalized in September.
Drost said that only six lots remain in the business park following the recent increased interest. “It’s a reflection of the real estate market here in Cook County.”
In addition, Commissioner Scott Harrison provided an overview of the golf course and EDA financials. He explained that there have been challenges providing accurate budget and financial numbers at recent EDA meetings.
“It’s been a bumpy road since we got new accountants, and then our accountant retired, and then we got new accountants, so everything’s just been kind of up in the air,” said Drost.
To remedy the situation, the EDA board is looking at pushing their monthly meeting back a week to give the accountants additional time to provide accurate budget and EDA numbers.
“It’s been an ongoing issue forever. And the commissioners are just like, let’s just take care of this. Let’s find a better date so that we can get the complete picture,” Drost said.
WTIP’s Kalli Hawkins spoke with EDA Director Beth Drost for an update on childcare and other EDA agenda items. Audio from the interview is below.