Every year leaders across McLean County gather to discuss the State of the County. This year, the county celebrated Rivian and Brandt Industries for providing continued economic development.
Brandt far exceeded its employment benchmarks to qualify for its tax abatement, and Rivian recently welcomed two big name investors.
But the talk about Rivian wasn’t all good. Rivian didn’t hit the mark on its 2018 capital investments. That’s according to Mike O’Grady, vice president and interim CEO of the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council.
To qualify for its 2018 tax abatement, O’Grady said Rivian had to report at least $10 million in capital investments.
“It was really based upon logistics,” he said. “Engineering for some of the parts (coming into) the plant just took longer than they anticipated. And it was a pretty good jump. That second year they have to go an additional $10 million. And they were at $2 million or $3 million, but they weren’t going to hit the $10 million.”
O’Grady said Rivian probably hit the mark by now, but the company will be paying its full 2018 taxes amounting in over $600,000.
“And the positive spin of that is the fact that these clawbacks that we’ve designed protect the taxpayers,” he said. “If you don’t hit the points of your agreement, you’re gonna have to pay your taxes.”
Rivian celebrated two big investors this year in Amazon and Ford totaling $1.2 billion. Looking at that, O’Grady said he is confident Rivian will far exceed its $22 million capital investment benchmark for this year.
County Board Chairman John McIntyre agrees. He said Rivian’s skateboard platform and battery base will continue to bring growth to the community through additional partnerships.
“This community got by many years being a white collar university, banking, insurance business (community. We) got by for many years without a lot of industry and blue collar, but we have noticed the impact already,” McIntyre said. “So it's very important for us to make an effort to bring jobs back into this community.”
Micro Loans For New Businesses
Also discussed at the State of the County was the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council’s Micro Loans Program, a collaboration between the council and the county.
It’s an updated version of the county’s revolving loan fund that the EDC’s O’Grady said is designed to provide financial backing for small businesses and entrepreneurs in the county.
“This is gonna be a little easier than you might get at the bank,” O’Grady said. “Because we realize it’s a risk, and the county realizes it’s a risk, so we’re gonna be a little more open to ideas for an entrepreneur.”
He said banks have to be a lot more secure in their loaning process, so oftentimes entrepreneurs starting out don’t have the background to pass through loan checks.
But he said the county and the EDC have the ability to help businesses grow by bridging the gap between local startups and needed financial support.
Economic development wasn’t the only focus on the panel. The State of the County also touched on more social issues in McLean County, primarily efforts to expand mental health services.
County Board Chairman McIntyre said he is determined to bring the 2015 Mental Health Plan to completion. Part of that includes the opening of the county’s triage center used to direct those with mental health needs to the proper local programs.
And later this year, McIntyre said the county will shift focus to increasing mental health care services for area youth.
“Psychiatric treatment for youth and juveniles in this county is very strongly needed, and so we’re going to work to now dedicate our efforts in that area,” McIntyre said.
The county plans to present a youth and adolescence needs program at its June meeting to be included in the county’s 2020 budget.
Meeting Infrastructure Needs
McIntyre said providing services to all of McLean County is a challenge; it’s the largest county in the state. Part of that struggle, McIntyre said, is keeping up with infrastructure needs.
McIntyre said a motor fuel tax hike would be paramount in helping the county’s incorporated and unincorporated areas. Mayors from Danvers and Arrowsmith sat on the panel. Both emphasized the struggle of keeping up with infrastructure needs after harsh winters.
Without a statewide motor fuel tax hike, McIntyre said the county can only make due with what it has. And in the interim, he said collaboration is key.
Taking that piece of advice to heart, the county’s newly selected administrator Camille Rodriguez said she was proud to see so many community partners at one table to discuss the State of the County.
“Knowing that we’re already convening and collaborating to provide leadership tp McLean County was very refreshing and positive for me to see today,” she said.
Rodriguez said she looks forward to learning from McIntyre and county board members about what they see as the primary needs of McLean County.
Rodriguez will replace outgoing County Administrator Bill Wasson on June 1.
People like you value experienced, knowledgeable and award-winning journalism that covers meaningful stories in Bloomington-Normal. To support more stories and interviews like this one, please consider making a contribution.