The 73,000 square foot former Garden Fresh Market store, on E. Rand Road, is a hub of activity these days as Floor & Décor prepares for its grand opening this spring.
Floor & Décor is one of the many businesses opening up in Arlington Heights this year and is a good example of how Arlington Heights has navigated through a sluggish economy.
Overall, the village of Arlington Heights has been making economic development gains despite the economic lag. Last year saw 113 new businesses open, slightly higher than in 2011.
The village is continually courting businesses and retailers to fill vacant buildings. Arlington Heights has 4 million square feet of retail space, said John C. Melaniphy, business and development coordinator.
“We’ve declined from about 14 percent vacancy to 12 percent in the last year,” Melaniphy said.
Four years ago, the village saw retailers and businesses closing.
Steve and Barry’s, Steak and Ale and Boston Blackies were a few national chains that went bankrupt and closed local stores.
“We had to identify retailers that were weathering the storm and would match the store sizes of our vacant spaces in the village,” Melaniphy said.
The economic recovery has fluxuated and "we are not seeing the kind of recovery we’d like," he said. "We still have high unemployment, fortunately foreclosures have subsided but there is still a lot of consumer debt and the recent increase in withholding taxes means consumer have less discretionary income, which fuels about 70 percent of the economy."
Still, Arlington Heights welcomed larger businesses like HHgregg and Ross Dress for Less in 2011 to fill some of the vacancies. There were 110 new businesses that created 1,145 new jobs that year, he said.
“We’ve probably leased 300,000 square feet of vacant retail space and probably another 50,000 square feet of office and industrial. We expect those segments to improve as we are able to attain some of our goals of attracting more manufacturing and business,” he said.
Arlington Heights had a good 2012 with 113 new businesses opening up, creating 465 jobs, Melaniphy said. Last year was fueled by small businesses, he said.
In 2012, “we were coming off the fiscal cliff to a lot of uncertainty. We did not grow as quickly as many hoped. The tax cuts expiring left a lot of uncertainty,” he said.
Many of the business were small, entrepreneur businesses, he said. There was a new yoga studio, a popcorn store, a doggie daycare and an acupuncture facility. Culver’s also opened, in addition to a swim school.
It’s a very competitive marketplace, he said. Arlington Heights competes with Schaumburg, Mt. Prospect, Deer Park and Buffalo Grove for business.
What sells Arlington Heights to business is its strong retail market, demographics and excellent roadway network, Melaniphy said.
“We are one of the largest suburban communities in the state of Illinois. We are at 75,000 residents. We have an above average household income. We have proximity to O’Hare and we have a very pro-development village board,” he said, adding the village has a high overall quality of life that attracts retailers and businesses.
Arlington Heights continues to reevaluate its marketing plan and economic development strategy, he said.
“We have a written economic development strategy that we employ,” he said. “We have a list of retailers we are targeting based on some market analysis we’ve done. We continue to identify retailers that would be best suited to meet market demand as well as industries that might be likely to occupy some of our industrial parks.”