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Spirit of Business – How Libertyville Leads in Supporting Local Business

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Author, Insider 94 staff

Nearly 22,000 people call Libertyville, Illinois, home. This historic village has a vibrant downtown area, desirable residential neighborhoods, top-notch schools, easily accessible recreational amenities (including open space, parks, and sports facilities), plus important industrial and employment hubs. Libertyville is situated in central Lake County, about 45 miles from Chicago’s Loop, seven miles west of Lake Michigan, and 55 miles south of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Talk about a great location!

Libertyville is renowned for its small-town feel and tight-knit community, which fosters a range of civic, social, artistic, cultural, and community-building initiatives. Most notably, its highly successful Main Street revitalization program that led to the restoration of the historic downtown as a significant economic and social hub. There is also the business activity on Milwaukee Avenue and Illinois Route 137 which, in addition to Downtown Libertyville, gives locals access to a range of services. Industrial areas close to the city’s core, Park Avenue, Innovation Park, as well as major employment hubs spread throughout Libertyville, like the Advocate Condell Medical Center and the Hollister Corporate campus, offer a diverse tax base and a wide range of employment options for the local population.

With its centralized location, easy access commerce/retail corridors, energetic downtown, plus industrial and employment hubs, it is no wonder businesses are attracted to this Lake County jewel. What sets Libertyville apart even more, is the unique focus the Village and community place on developing programs, events, incentives, initiatives, planning and opportunities for local businesses to thrive. In fact, a new Comprehensive Plan, which serves as a roadmap for Libertyville’s future physical, economic, and social growth over the next ten years, was started by the Village in 2018. The Comprehensive Plan’s vision is the result of extensive collaboration, participation, and input from Libertyville residents and stakeholders in the planning process, as well as analysis and study of the community’s existing conditions, including its traditional downtown business district, neighborhoods, economic climate, commercial corridors, industrial areas, open space, streets and infrastructure, and urban design and visual appearances. One of the main tenants of the Comprehensive Plan is centered around various avenues of business development, including efforts to further enhance the downtown area along with other business corridors.

The primary types of business that drive Libertyville’s economy are restaurants, retail, service, healthcare, automotive dealerships, and industrial/manufacturing. As the Village identifies opportunities for business growth, that will both serve the community and boost the economy, different programs and campaigns for various business sectors have been developed. In an effort to ensure the strength of the automobile dealership corridor, the Village worked with the dealerships to brand the corridor as the Libertyville Mile of Cars, marketing the many brands and makes available in one place. The Village created a Business Improvement District to incentivize car dealerships to invest and expand their operations, thereby retaining a strong local sales tax base and appearance of the business corridor. Since 2010 dealerships have invested approximately $50,000,000 in property acquisition and construction through this program.

To continually attract investors, the Village works closely with the real estate development community to share information about available development sites or properties for acquisition. Available property information is readily accessible at The Village participates in real estate trade shows to connect expanding operators with available sites information.  Additionally, the Village responds to site searches being conducted by Intersect Illinois and Lake County Partners on behalf of expanding businesses. All these efforts are paying off as new developments continue be strong with the completion of a new Hyundai dealership, opening of a new 60-bed rehabilitation hospital, commencement of an 80-unit townhome development, the La Villa apartment building conversion, construction of WoodSpring Suites hotel, and other exciting projects.

The Village also provides assistance in times of need that impact local businesses. During the early months of COVID, Libertyville acted to support local small businesses in several ways, regularly communicating information about available state and federal support programs, and by creating the High Five Business Relief Grant designed to offset certain pandemic related expenses. Village staff continues to link businesses to representatives of the IL Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity which has modified and expanded its incentives and grants to businesses for the 2023 year. Staff also acts as a conduit for the many trainings, financing, workforce support, trade expansion, and other programs that are available through partner agencies at the county, state, and federal level. Several programs of note include the following:

  • Free business counseling services provided by the IL Small Business Center at the College of Lake County, on topics from business plans to HR, to financing and more.
  • For recruiting and hiring needs, the Village connects businesses with Lake County Workforce Development, which helps in promoting job opportunities, organizing job fairs, and funding internship and apprenticeship positions at local businesses.

To keep the lines of communication open, the Village of Libertyville holds regular, small-group meetings, or Listening Sessions, with Libertyville business owners and managers. These meetings serve to learn more about the experiences, successes, and challenges they face to help enlighten Village leaders about the local business climate, using the information to develop additional ways the Village can continue to foster business success and growth.

Outstanding support of Libertyville businesses is not limited to the Village, there are many local non-profit groups and organizations that hold fundraising events where local businesses can participate through sponsorship. Most recently, these organizations banded together to begin marketing their largest 2023 events under the title Festivals of Libertyville. Libertyville Days, Dog Days of Summer, Festival of the Arts and Oktoberfest are all highlighted by this community undertaking.

Additional programming extends throughout the year in the downtown area through Main Street Libertyville, which is a nonprofit, volunteer-based organization dedicated to the economic development and historic preservation of historic downtown Libertyville. The group is an affiliate of the Illinois Main Street and National Main Street programs. Over the past 30 years, the membership and volunteer base has grown to include hundreds.  Volunteers for Main Street Libertyville can join in helping to continually regain the vitality of historic downtown. In recent years, building facades have been returned to their original glory and thousands are enjoying the organization’s events that bolster the shopping and dining scene. Many new stores, restaurants, and businesses have come to the district through the dedication of these volunteers and their incredible passion and promotion of the area.

Some of their events that cultivate a dine, shop, and support local business philosophy include:

  • Libertyville Farmers Market (running June-October) 
  • Sidewalk Sales
  •  Lunch in the Park
  •  Car Fun
  • Girls’ Night Out
  • First Friday
  • Main Street Dessert Walk
  • Lake County Restaurant Week
  • Plus, numerous holiday events

One of the biggest areas of small business growth for Libertyville especially in the downtown area, has been restaurants. Adding 11 new restaurants in the past year (with more on the way), there are nearly 100 for patrons to enjoy throughout the village with a wonderful mix of cuisine and dining styles. Participation in Lake County Restaurant Week (sponsored by the Lake County Chamber of Commerce) is highly promoted by the Village, its restaurants, and Main Street Libertyville.

All the synergistic endeavors are paying off in many ways. Most notably, Libertyville benefits from a low real estate vacancy rate compared to surrounding communities and the County at large. This is exemplified by a retail vacancy at 6% and industrial at 2%, providing evidence of the strong economic conditions locally that drive continued investment by businesses and developers.

Libertyville, like many communities, has numerous ways the community to get involved in the efforts to support local businesses. For a business, being visible in the community through participation in local events and cross promotion between local businesses is key to garnering community support; Libertyville residents and the surrounding community really respond to these efforts by local businesses. There are also many volunteer opportunities for events with Main Street Libertyville, where residents and business owners alike can collaborate to create a thriving economy and extraordinary Village.

Whether you live, work, own a business or are simply visiting Libertyville, take note of all the flourishing businesses, restored buildings, retail offerings, variety of dining options, mile of cars, beautiful parks, and the wonderful atmosphere that has been created with the combined efforts of the Village and community alike. Libertyville truly understands that when a village supports local business, everybody wins.

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