SOUTH HOLLAND | Village officials used a south suburban forum to tout their own development plans for the next decade, saying Friday the improvements have the potential to benefit surrounding communities.
Village President Don De Graff told the gathering of the Chicago Southland Economic Development Corp. he believes officials in the area need to think of the bigger picture about how they can help each other.
“We are in this thing together,” De Graff said. “We are entities that need to work together.”
De Graff and village Economic Development Director John Watson talked of the Vision 2022 plan created last year to bolster the downtown business district around 162nd Street and South Park Avenue.
Watson said while South Holland’s population is 22,030 people, there are some 100,000 people in communities within three miles of the village.
He cited the Love’s Travel Center that will open early next year at 162nd Street and the Bishop Ford Freeway, which will include a gas station and a Hardee’s, saying it will benefit surrounding communities as well.
He also said South Holland owns several plots of land around the village it would like to sell to developers.
Those plots include one next to the proposed travel center visibile from the freeway, and another across the street from the newly built Town Center development that contains the recently opened Panera Bread.
De Graff told the gathering that included U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Chicago., and Cook County Commissioner Stanley Moore he’d like it if other communities would dream big in terms of trying to attract business.
“We need to dream. I don’t think we’ve done enough of that,” in the south suburbs, he said. “We need to think about our future without our political biases, without concern for patronage or for our parochial views.”
On other issues, Sterling Lumber President Carter Sterling talked of how local governments could attract businesses such as his by being cooperative with their interests. He cited how the company his grandfather created in 1949 is closing its longtime offices near Blue Island, along with manufacturing plants in Gary and Joliet, to locate at a 60-acre site in south suburban Phoenix.
“I now realize we can get more done with the help of you economic development people,” Sterling said.
Also, Midwest High Speed Rail Association Director Richard Harnish touted the potential benefits of high-speed rail lines.
He said any potential line would result in an upgrade of the current Amtrak rail station in Homewood, which would give the south suburbs direct access to high-speed rail. Such trains could transport people from Chicago to Indianapolis in 1 1/2 hours, to St. Louis in two hours and to Champaign in one hour.