BLOOMINGTON — McLean County has a lot to offer — but that's not always enough for it to thrive, officials said Wednesday.
"This is a very competitive world, and there are a lot of communities as good as McLean County competing," said Normal Mayor Chris Koos. "Some people get upset about the dollar incentives municipalities give to businesses, and we take that seriously, but we also look at long-term vitality of the community."
Koos, Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner, County Board Chairman John McIntyre and other officials spoke about economic development and other community goals during the annual "State of McLean County" event held at the Hanson Student Center at Illinois Wesleyan University.
Renner spoke about several local development projects, including Eastland Mall, the former Electrolux site on Main Street and the former Bloomington Junior High School on Washington Street, that he hopes can bring new investment and tax revenue to the city soon.
The city, town and county all face budget issues caused by declining income and sales tax revenue as well as poor fiscal management by the state.
"We are not going to cut our way out of every problem," said Renner. "We want to grow the local economy so we don't have to raise taxes."
"We have no more sacred obligation than to reduce economic inequality and to deliver opportunity to all our residents," he said. "(We have) a commitment to public dialogue with explicit knowledge that discrimination and racism exists in our community, and we're not afraid to address it."
McIntyre spoke about the county's sustained investment in mental health treatment — funded in part by city and town sales tax proceeds. He also praised BN Advantage, an effort that promotes the community to businesses.
"We need recognition of the public services we have, because they are good," he said.
Danvers Mayor Tom Caisley, president of the McLean County Mayors Association, spoke on behalf of smaller local communities, which he said are concerned about larger entities, including the state and federal governments, balancing budgets by charging small towns that can fund only core services.