The city of Woodstock has plenty of opportunities for economic growth despite recent setbacks, Mayor Brian Sager told local business leaders.
The Woodstock Chamber of Commerce and Industry hosted its annual State of the City address Sept. 21, which included a presentation from Sager and other city officials during a luncheon at Mia Passione.
The city’s financial position is “incredibly strong,” Sager said, and although recent service and staff cutbacks at Centegra Hospital-Woodstock were disappointing, he said Woodstock has taken “positive, aggressive steps” over the past year.
“We had a lot of situations or challenges that perhaps we wish we didn’t have to face this year, but at the same time, we have lots of opportunities,” Sager said.
Centegra Health System has applied with the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board to permanently discontinue most inpatient services at its Woodstock hospital. Sager said the cuts will be challenging for the city and its residents, but he added officials are looking at other health care providers who might be able to fill that void.
Among other changes to have taken place in Woodstock over the past year is the city’s new status as a home-rule community and a one-point sales tax hike which followed.
“I’m not expecting huge applause for [the tax increase],” Sager told the crowd, but he said additional revenue would go toward property tax relief and street repairs, two areas of focus for city officials.
Also in City Hall’s sights are economic development and public safety, Sager said.
“It’s pretty tough when you have the type of news and the type of activity that we had in early June of this year,” Sager said, referencing a spate of high-profile crimes which took place this past summer. “Our police department works extremely hard to protect our community, and they do a fabulous job.”
Sager said 38 new businesses have opened in Woodstock since the autumn of 2015, when the city’s Economic Development Department was reorganized. The city calculates there have been 558 new jobs and 1,358 retained jobs in Woodstock over that period of time.
“Those are pretty solid statistics,” Sager said.