Oglesby officials might bring back a Tax Increment Financing grant program that would pay businesses up to $20,000 to defray improvements.

Right now, it's just a proposal; but support for the program was evident at a public meeting Tuesday in city hall. More than 20 business owners made it clear if TIF money is offered, there will be takers.

Oglesby attorney Gary Peterlin said he approved of the last TIF grant program offered (2001-2003) and said he'd like to see it tried again.

"I think the goal really is to get some buildings filled," Peterlin said.

If numbers bounced around Tuesday come to fruition, then that might happen. Planning commission chairman Ken Ficek and Becky Clinard, economic development/tourism coordinator, said the city is considering offering $100,000 a year for four years.

The city council, which has final say, hasn't approved those figures but Ficek and Clinard said a consensus is emerging they'd like to commit at least some funds.

Businesses could be eligible for annual reimbursement of about one-third their outlays, again up to $20,000, but must remain in business five years to keep it.

"If you shut down before five years," Ficek said, "the city's going to come after you for that money."

Many questions need to be answered before the city council considers adopting the program, not least of which is whether businesses can be reimbursed retroactively.

Neal Brown, owner of Savvy Style, recently invested $10,000 in signage and computerized inventory. He said he'd like to recoup some of those costs.

"I already put some money into my business," said Shug Grosenbach, an Oglesby businesswoman. "I don't want to put any more in until you decide whether to do this."

Oglesby business people with additional questions or comments may call Clinard at (815) 883-9722.

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