LOMBARD — Business owners and local leaders got the opportunity this week to listen to the positions and ideas of the three candidates vying for Lombard village president.
Keith Giagnorio, Moon Khan and John Novak took turns answering questions that focused on the current business climate and plans for Lombard's future during the Lombard Area Chamber of Commerce and Industry's March luncheon on Wednesday.
The discussion was facilitated by Joe Orsolini, the chamber's president.
Giagnorio, a current village trustee and small business owner, offered comments favoring expanded business development in specifically targeted areas. He identified vacancies in the village's industrial parks that he'd like to see filled and said he'd like to focus on getting more retail business along Roosevelt Road and bring a warehouse-style store such as Costco, Sam's Club or Meijer to Lombard.
The local government's role in economic development, he said, is to bring in new business while helping the existing ones be successful.
"Local government needs to be proactive," Giagnorio said. "It needs to be recruiting businesses in, also being able to listen to the local residents and business community to see what the needs and wants are of the residents and other businesses in the area."
In the frequent hot-topic of downtown Lombard, Giagnorio reminded people of the downtown revitalization plan that was approved by the Village Board in the spring of 2011. The implementation work already has begun on that plan.
Giagnorio also introduced the idea of bringing a college to the site of the former DuPage Theatre.
Moon Khan, a former York Township trustee, was emphatic about changes being made at the village level to support businesses.
"We need to create a whole new perception at Village Hall," he said. "Whatever we can do, we have to do. ... I would say we need a complete new thinking from a business owner's point of view."
Like Giagnorio, he supported more development along Roosevelt Road, and specifically bringing high-end restaurants to the area. In downtown Lombard, he identified a need for a multi-story parking garage on the DuPage Theatre site that also could include retail space.
Khan was critical of the work the village has done to bring in new business.
"We need to respect those people who have come to the village to invest in the village," he said. "We're not being a kind of cheerleader for our village."
John Novak, a longtime Lombard resident and retired treasurer for DuPage County, spoke optimistically. He said the way for continued economic growth is for the Village Board to repair the image it painted for itself in the months following former Village President Bill Mueller's death.
"We have a reputation that has been growing the wrong way in the last four or five months," he said. "(Fixing that reputation) would do more to develop good commerce and industry than any other single issue we talked about."
Novak said the village has a solid mix of businesses that offer different products and services, and that he's pleased with the way the village's downtown district is expanding and filling vacancies. He attended a recent event hosted by the Lombard Town Centre and was supportive of similar events in the future to help drive visitors downtown.
"The downtown (tax increment financing district) is starting to do very well," he said. "We need to keep doing what we're doing."
The consolidated election to select a village president, village trustees, school and library board trustees and park board commissioners is April 9.