A picture of a building crane | Photo: Detroit Chamber
Wednesday, February 3, 2016 || By Michael Romain || Updated: 2/6/16
“I know this town and I know the people in this town who want to see good happen and I’m one of those people,” said Bridgette Chatman Lewis, pictured left, a proud Maywood native who currently lives in a suburb nearby. “I’m from one of those families that have been here for a while.”
Lewis, who is president of Chatman Lewis Consulting Group, a business strategy consulting firm based in Oak Brook and with an office in Washington, D.C., has bold ideas for her hometown.
She wants to use her expansive network to bring to Maywood a sustainable grocery store — replete with fresh, locally grown produce shipped from farms within the region — and a manufacturing facility that she estimates would employ upwards of 150 people.
The plan may have hit a roadblock due to a breakdown in communication between Lewis and village officials over a fee arrangement; however, her assessment of Maywood’s youth unemployment rate and market potential is meaty enough.
In Maywood, Lewis said, of the village’s roughly 24,000 residents, there are over 4,000 youths. Youth are categorized as 16 to 24 year olds. Among that demographic, roughly 21 percent are unemployed.
“That’s close to 900 youth not employed and not in school, which means you get … crime,” she said at a board meeting last month.
She also noted that Maywood has long been missing in action on a billion dollar playing field — despite the village’s relatively high total income.
“The aggregate income in Maywood, which is the total collective income, is $404 million annually,” Lewis said.
“Melrose Park’s total is roughly $430 million. Forest Park’s is over $500 million. River Forest’s is approximately $680 million. The only [nearby] suburb the village isn’t competitive with in terms of total income is Oak Park, which is at around $2.4 billion in aggregate income.”
Lewis said that, in Maywood, there are around 2,000 households that take in between $50,000 and $200,000, but “they’re not spending their money here. They just have a house here. We need to participate more in that spend to be able to make the town thrive.”
That “spend,” Lewis notes, is the $6 billion a year that is spent at restaurants and drinking establishments in places other than Maywood, most notably Oak Brook, Oak Park, Hinsdale and River Forest.
Lewis said residents in this consumer area spend around 12 percent of their total income eating out and shopping for food.
“We need some of that money to stay in Maywood,” she said, noting that the roughly 90 to 120 small businesses in town only represent a miniscule part of that $6 billion total trade revenue.
Lewis said that the manufacturing and other new business will help bring down the tax burden on homeowners in Maywood.
“If manufacturing facilities come, they’ll bring the tax burden down on other businesses as well. There is no reason why name-brand establishments, such as Chipotle, TGI Fridays and Starbucks and other corporate entities shouldn’t be enticed to come to the village.” VFP
NOTED: This post has been updated to more accurately reflect Lewis’s job title and to offer greater clarity in certain areas.