To the Editor:
The past and future application of tax increment financing has been a central element in the debate about who is going to be the next mayor of DeKalb.
Projects to beautify, repair, rebuild, and otherwise invest in objects have been the subject of endless debate. I would like to propose a different and likely controversial idea, that the idea of tax increment financing could be changed from a method to invest in things, to a method to invest in people. An entrepreneurship program.
I am specifically thinking about the effective use of the people’s tax dollars for the purpose of improving downtown DeKalb. What if we think about developing great businesses instead of developing the wallpaper around the businesses. Focus on generating organic growth instead of the typical “if we build it they will come” course that the citizens are now accustomed to. Or worse yet, the practice of giving handouts to national corporations that seems to be the new norm. My proposal would be something like this.
1. Create a Center for Small Business and Entrepreneurship in collaboration with NIU.
2. Individuals interested in starting or expending a small business within the TIF district could apply for some sort of assistance, almost like a micro SBA.
3. As a condition of receiving a TIF grant, an aspiring business owner would have to complete an entrepreneurship training process, “MiniMBA” provided by the Center for Small Business and Entrepreneurship.
It will also help the aspiring business owners to refine their business models, which will in turn create businesses that are more profitable and add more value to the Downtown area. As well as reducing the turn over of storefronts.
Once the culture of entrepreneurship is heightened you will truly see TIF as a funding mechanism that offers return on investment to the taxpayer. You may even see an increased spirit of cooperation with NIU along the way.