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City to add economic development staff

Evanston City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz told the Economic Development Committee Wednesday night that, despite the city’s financial problems that are leading to expected layoff announcements tomorrow, he plans to beef up the city’s staffing to carry out economic development activities.

Evanston City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz told the Economic Development Committee Wednesday night that, despite the city’s financial problems that are leading to expected layoff announcements tomorrow, he plans to beef up the city’s staffing to carry out economic development activities.

Bobkiewicz said he plans to ask the City Council to expand newly hired Community Development Director Lehman Walker’s position to be "Community and Economic Development Director."

And he plans to hire two new planning staffers to handle economic development work.

That will be a net increase of only one person, however, because also at the meeting, the city’s current economic development planner, Morris Robinson, announced that he will be retiring next year.

Planning Director Dennis Marino will also continue to work on economic development issues, Bobkiewicz said, but some of his responsibilities will change to focus more on "strategic work."

Because of the upcoming changes in personnel and strategy, Bobkiewicz said, he doesn’t believe the city is yet ready to fully participate in a partnership with other entities in town that could lead development efforts, including the Northwestern University, the Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Evanston.

But, in the meantime, the committee voted to adopt a set of economic development priorities that include business retention and expansion, business attraction, commercial area revitalization and redevelopment and community marketing.

The priority list will be on the agenda for approval by the City Council at its Jan. 11 meeting.

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