St. Charles aldermen have taken hits in recent weeks in online comments complaining that not enough is being done to bring new businesses into town—even though the pace of the nation’s recovery from the Great Recession has put a damper on such efforts elsewhere.
Monday night, however, Economic Development Director Chris Aiston unveiled to the St. Charles City Council Planning and Development Committee a proposed $250,000 incentives package to lure a new business here from Joliet, generating $45 million in sales over the first five years.
During that same period, the business expects to create 21 jobs with an estimated payroll of $3.5 million. Aiston said the new business also is projected to create eight more indirect or induced jobs with a payroll of $900,000, generating more revenue for city coffers in the process.
The business is looking at sharing a building with the Fox River Harley-Davidson at 131 S. Randall Road, which has about 8,000 square feet of underused space available.
US Adventure RV President John Dresselhaus told aldermen that his company, headquartered in Davenport, IA, has a satellite facility in Joliet, which operates primarily as a service center to the company’s clients, who come from all over the United States. While US Adventure RVs sells and rents all manner of RVs, from pop-up trailers to motorhomes, its specialty is Airstreams, considered by many to be the Cadillac of the RV world. If it moves its Joliet service center to St. Charles, it would open it as a dealership point, an option it does not on the site it leases in Joliet, which is considerably smaller than the St. Charles site.
The company not only is looking for larger quarters, it’s looking for an area that is better-suited for selling high-end RVs and campers, Aiston told the aldermen, and Dresselhaus said the more affluent western and northwest suburbs likely would be the better location.
But a move is costly — Dresselhaus has told the city he expects his relocation costs to amount to $590,000, and has asked the city for a break on the 1 percent municipal sales tax — not the city’s home rule sales tax — to help him recoup a portion of the cost.
Under the proposed incentive package — aldermen voted 6-0 to direct the city staff to draw up a formal agreement — the city would reimburse US Adventure RV a portion of the sales tax it collects for up to six years until the $250,000 is reached.
Stepping in to chair the night’s committee meeting was 5th Ward Alderman Ed Bessner — the chairman does not vote except to break ties — and 1st Ward Aldermen Dan Stellato and Jon Monken, and 2nd Ward Aldermen Clifford Carrignan were absent.
An additional part of the incentives package, Aiston said, is a commitment and a requirement that US Adventure RV keep a full dealership in St. Charles for at least 10 years. Failure to do so would require US Adventure RV to return the incentive cash to the city.
All told, Aiston said it is a good move for the city that will draw more revenue than will be paid out. In addition, he continued, there are numerous ancillary benefits to US Adventure RV’s move to St. Charles. He explained tat Airstream trailers have a platform that is complementary to Mercedes, and St. Charles has a Mercedes dealership, creating a potential synergy that would benefit both businesses. Also, because Airstream is a model that is widely popular among wealthier buyers willing to travel a long way to buy a quality RV, the city would see more visitors with disposable income, creating a potential for additional benefits to other local businesses.
While aldermen are curious about the viability of US Adventure RV — 4th Ward Aldermen James E. Martin in particular wanted more information about the company’s finances — Dresselhaus reassured them his company has done well.
Since the recession, many RV dealerships simply have closed, he said. But his operation in Davenport has expanded and added staff. Because of the success it has had with the Joliet operation, which it relaunched in 2009, Dresselhaus expressed confidence than an operation in the western or northwest suburbs would do even better.
Still, even with the committee’s apparent optimism about the deal, it’s far from being a signed contract. Dresselhaus appeared eager as he spoke to the aldermen, but he also said plainly that staying in Joliet remains a possibility, although the company’s lease there is drawing to an end.