LOCAL INDUSTRIAL RETENTION INITIATIVE [LIRI]
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
Jim Lemonides, President and CEO of
Greater North Pulaski Development
Corp., and father of the LIRI program
"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
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
"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, 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.