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Marengo community address: Economic development in focus with new I-90 interchange completion

Marengo City Administrator Joshua Blakemore speaks during the 2020 Marengo State of the Community breakfast on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020, at Trio Grille, 101 Franks Road, Marengo.
Marengo City Administrator Joshua Blakemore speaks during the 2020 Marengo State of the Community breakfast on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020, at Trio Grille, 101 Franks Road, Marengo.

Now that the Interstate 90 interchange at Route 23 in Marengo is operational, conversations at the city's annual State of the Community breakfast on Wednesday focused on economic development in the surrounding area.

Marengo City Administrator Joshua Blakemore said the city recently was awarded a $26.9 million grant from a state capital bill for three purposes: the extension of utilities within the interchange area, additional work to the city's wastewater treatment plant to accommodate new growth and remediation efforts to prevent groundwater from flooding into the wastewater plant's sanitary system.

In order to spur initial development in the interchange area, Blakemore said the city still is in talks to join the Harvard-Woodstock enterprise zone.

Incentives for businesses entering an enterprise zone may include tax credits off the income taxes of the total costs of a qualified project, or the option not to pay the state’s portion of a sales tax for building materials for a qualified project.

“When we’re competing for a large-scale economic development or industrial development, it’s not Marengo competing against Woodstock competing against Harvard competing against Huntley,” Blakemore said. “It’s McHenry County competing against Wisconsin competing against Lake County competing against Cook County so it very much allows for a joint unified effort and we’re big believers that what’s good for the region is what’s good for Marengo.”

Additional property tax revenue from new development could help to offset the city’s growing police pension obligations.

Last year, Blakemore said Marengo’s general fund budget was about $4 million, $450,000 of which had to go to police pension contributions. This fiscal year, Blakemore said around $550,000 of the city’s $4.5 million general fund budget went to the police pensions, representing a $100,000 increase in money earmarked for police pensions.

Jim McConoughey, president of the McHenry County Economic Development Corporation, said one of the key development factors where the city may fall short is in data communications, which he said was the 21st century equivalent of having a drinking water system that is safe to use in a development area.

“The characterization of getting that data hub in is either going to make you or break you in the overall development of those primary jobs,” McConoughey said.

“There’s not a factory that we can open up [and] there’s not a business that we can open up anywhere in McHenry County that isn’t livewired [or] hardwired to data systems and their communications strategies are equal to what the potable water and their electricity and their natural gas systems are,” he said.

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