Jesiel Holds Economic Development Roundtables with Local Leaders and State Agencies

State Representative Sheri Jesiel (R-Winthrop Harbor) held a series of economic development roundtables at the Illinois Beach State Park and the North Point Marina last week with a number of local leaders and state agencies. Officials from Beach Park, Winthrop Harbor and Zion had the opportunity to speak with officials from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA). Several topics were discussed to explore how the local natural resources can become drivers of job growth for the communities while preserving their natural beauty.

“This is a starting point to create a plan of action for cooperation among our communities and the state,” said Jesiel. “We are very lucky to have some wonderful natural resources in northeastern Lake County, but they’ve been under-utilized for a variety of reasons. State statute is one of those reasons and I hope to address that issue once we develop a strategy. In the past, we've run into obstacles because of state preservation statues, and IDNR and IEPA have expressed a willingness to work with the community leaders to whatever extent possible.”

Changing existing statute will be the primary role Jesiel may play through legislation in Springfield, which could facilitate programs and projects that are currently difficult, if not impossible. While Jesiel is looking to explore a number of avenues, she has already begun work on a couple pieces of legislation to help overcome some of these obstacles.

The working group, including mayors Al Hill of Zion and John Hucker of Beach Park, was widely supportive of a working committee that would consider the potential of turning the Illinois Beach State Park/Resort and North Point Marina into vacation destinations in addition to reviving them as resources and job creators for the surrounding communities. Jesiel would partner with the working group to help facilitate regular meetings to develop a more thorough plan of action.

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) was involved in the last meeting of the day. CMAP has been working with Winthrop Harbor recently to develop a new economic development plan. During the various meetings, suggestions were made to utilize CMAP as a resource to aide in the creation and development on any plan for the broader group of communities. More discussions will be necessary in the coming weeks and months, but the prospect seems very promising.

“As a group, we still have a lot to discuss.” said Jesiel. “There are some things, like improved signage and connecting bicycle trails, we can probably do without too much difficulty. Other larger projects will be part of our ongoing discussions and I look forward to collaborating with local and state officials to develop a successful strategy.

“None of this could happen without the willingness of the local communities to work together, and I’m thankful to IDNR and IEPA for taking the time to hear their concerns and ideas. Hopefully, we’ll be able to put together a broader plan in the coming months.”