But small business are feeling effects of the pandemic

By Dave Fidlin

Correspondent

For all the challenges that have arisen throughout 2020 at the hands of COVID-19, economic development across Racine County has been strong, according to an organization devoted to economic development.

Laura Million, business development manager with the Racine County Economic Development Corp., provided a bird’s eye view of economic activity across the region at a Union Grove Village Board meeting Sept. 21.

“We’ve got a very strong, active pipeline,” Million said as she gave what was described as a midyear report to Union Grove officials. “Most of it is in the manufacturing space.”

Thus far in 2020, the trend toward job creation has continued within Racine County, Million said, and some of the locales are in Union Grove’s backyard.

Case in point: Amazon facilities in Sturtevant and Yorkville brought 430 jobs and 220 jobs, respectively, to the area. In all, Million said about 800 jobs have been created in the first half of this year.

Other statistics Million shared with village officials included private investment, which she said “continued strong” across the county. A total of $54.9 million has been infused into the region with such venues as the dual Amazon facilities and a ReCon relocation in Racine serving as prominent examples.

Construction activities through early summer carried an estimated $13.9 million in valuation, Million said, and 251 active prospects will likely lead to more announcements as the year comes to a close.

But the pandemic has posed challenges — particularly on small businesses throughout the region, including those perched in Union Grove.

This spring, at the height of the pandemic, village officials worked in tandem with the RCEDC to create a grant program to provide quick funds to businesses crimped by the sudden financial jolt that was brought on by the abrupt lockdowns.

Other participants also stepped up to the plate, Million said, including the Andis Foundation, which offered up a $50,000 grant to businesses impacted by shelter in place orders in March and April.

Million also touched on RCEDC’s county-focused job boards, which spotlights companies throughout the area that are hiring professionals. Numbers are down from the beginning of the year, she said, but have been rebounding.

Pre-pandemic, Million said the job board had about 400 positions. By mid-March, they were trimmed in half to 200 positions. By the end of the second quarter, however, they inched back up toward 250 positions.

Most of the open jobs in the Greater Racine County Area, Million said, are in the manufacturing and health care sectors.

As has been the case in the past, Million said RCEDC continues to court companies outside the region with digital campaigns. This especially is true of operations in northern Illinois.

“We’re trying to give them an understanding of what kinds of job opportunities are available here,” Million said. “We’re emphasizing Racine County’s quality of life. I think Union Grove is very well positioned in that regard.”

Village President Mike Aimone said he was appreciative of the RCEDC’s efforts to continue pursuing new opportunities at an unprecedented, challenging time.

“We’re fortunate to have the working relationship we have with RCEDC,” Aimone said.