With the pandemic having perhaps quickened the pace by which businesses are moving online, candidates for the three available 4-year seats for Bartlett village trustee recently spoke about how to encourage more businesses to locate in town during a joint interview with the Daily Herald.
The five candidates for those seats are incumbents Vince Carbonaro, Stephanie Gandsey and Aaron Reinke, as well as Bartlett plan commission member Daniel Gunsteen and registered nurse and small business owner Theresa Materna.
Carbonaro neither took part in the interview nor responded to a questionnaire, and could not be reached for any additional comment.
Gunsteen, who also previously served on the village's economic development commission, said residents have always had a desire for more businesses in town and that that will probably only increase after the pandemic.
One thing the village can do, Gunsteen said, is go out and encourage entrepreneurs to find their eager clientele among Bartlett's 45,000 residents.
"As much as everything's going online, I think that one of the things this pandemic is going to do is make people have an opposite effect," he said. "They're going to be so sick of being at home and having things going to their house. They're going to want to get out and enjoy the restaurants in town and shop in the boutiques."
Reinke agreed with Gunsteen that the Streets of Bartlett redevelopment has been a catalyst for the downtown, generating a critical mass of businesses that he sees as necessary to make moving there economical for others.
Nevertheless, he sees retail as being further challenged after the pandemic and expects Bartlett's commercial base will be more reliant on service-oriented businesses and the continued success of the industrial companies in the Brewster Creek and Blue Heron developments.
Materna says she shares the enthusiasm for the Streets of Bartlett project, believing the village has always been and will always be a haven for small, independent businesses.
"That was one of the attractions to me, individually, when I moved here," Materna said. "I believe if we support those small retailers, those individual businesses, we'll do well."
Though commercial development in Bartlett is challenged by the differing tax rates in each county, Materna said, she believes more encouragement of industrial business and development on the often overlooked west side of the village is possible.
Gandsey also was on the economic development commission before being appointed trustee to fill the vacancy created by the death of Michael Camerer. She sees the economic development grants the village has made available, funded by Bartlett's share of the revenue from its gambling cafes, as encouraging of the growth that's been seen at Streets of Bartlett and elsewhere.
"It was a great way to be able to help our town in a way that's giving back to the community as a whole," Gandsey said.
She would like to see more progress on the transit-oriented development plan near the train station, requiring not only more businesses there but apartment buildings for commuters who would visit them. She also believes Bartlett can be the home to more businesses people from out of town would want to visit.
"I think that's going to come from the branding of our village," Gandsey said. "How do we talk about Bartlett so when we have our economic development people going out, they're talking about it in a way that's moving towards that vision. Not just what it's going to be next year. What's it going to be in 2050? ... How do we get there?"
Uncontested in the April 6 election in Bartlett are Village President Kevin Wallace and Village Clerk Lorna Giless, both of whom are seeking reelection, as well as recently appointed Trustee Renee Suwanski, who's running for the remaining two years of the term she's already serving.