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Where do you turn if you are a business needing city services, relocation or expansion assistance? The answer has been the Local Industrial Retention Initiative (LIRI), available through the city's many energetic industrial development organizations.

LIRI representatives assist companies with issues such as expansion or relocation, business development financing, graffiti removal, infrastructure improvements, licensing, and zoning.

Jim Lemonides
Jim Lemonides, President and CEO of
Greater North Pulaski Development
Corp., and father of the LIRI program
in Chicago.

"LIRI organizations help keep communications open and to bring business and the city together on a timely basis," says Bill Trumbull, a Department of Planning and Development Deputy Commissioners who works with local LIRI organizations.

Help can be as simple as finding the right department or person at City Hall or working through the complexities of helping companies find and acquire suitable sites. LIRI organizations also become actively involved in broader issues that impact businesses, such as public transportation and tax issues.

"More than 50% of businesses in this area have 25 or fewer employees. The owner is the CEO, human resources director, sales manager and accountant. They have little time to deal with the city, but if they work through a LIRI organization, we take the ball and run for them," explains Bill Gearing, from the North Business Industrial Council.

The LIRI concept emerged when a business owner looking to expand his company, couldn't get through government red tape and almost gave up in frustration. Fourteen years later, 16 LIRI organizations serve Chicago businesses.

Industrial companies often need the most assistance on space issues. "When we've looked at what drives companies out, we found that most were real estate related decisions," says Jim Lemonides, CEO of Greater North-Pulaski Development Corporation.

"A lot of companies want to operate in the city. At their critical growth points, they look at space and equipment needs; that's when it's crucial for LIRI to step in."

Carl Bufalini
Carl Bufalini, CEO of North Business and Industrial Council [NORBIC], a LIRI organization, calling on a local business.

NORBIC's Gearing, for example, was able to assist Ampere Automotive when the company considered leaving Chicago because it had outgrown its facility. With the help of the city and the LIRI organization, Ampere acquired, developed, and relocated to an unused UPS site in the same industrial corridor.

"They went from 75,000 to 125,000 square feet and will ultimately add 75 neighborhood jobs to their workforce," says Gearing.

"The best argument for LIRI is that the concept has been embraced by other industrial cities as an effective and efficient model for delivering services to industry," says Lemonides, pointing out that the Chicago LIRI model has been used successfully in both Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

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