Brookfield may soon follow the example of suburbs like Bedford Park and Hanover Park by spreading word about the village and its opportunities for economic development via radio commercials.

The commercials would air in advance of an event geared toward developers in early October, where the village would tout opportunities and showcase areas of the village, like Ogden Avenue, which are ripe for commercial development.

“We need to specifically highlight the best parts of Brookfield and do it not only from an aspect of just getting people here to see Brookfield, but then providing them with the detailed information to know what kind of properties we have, what the sizes are, what we hope to accomplish in our TIF districts, highlighting that we have the TIF districts and that we’re open for business,” Keith Sbiral, Brookfield assistant village manager and head of planning, told members of the village board’s economic development subcommittee at a meeting July 11.

The subcommittee, created in May by President Kit Ketchmark, also includes trustees Michael Garvey and Michelle Ryan. The group is scheduled to meet again July 17 at 4 p.m. to solidify a timetable for the developer event and any radio advertising leading up to it.

The full village board could consider funding a radio campaign as soon as its meeting on July 22.

Appearing before the subcommittee at last week’s meeting was Heidi Burtner, integrated marketing specialist for CBS Radio, who is working with Sbiral on the radio commercial concept.

Burtner and Sbiral unveiled a pair of radio spots, representative of what might air later this summer. A 15-second commercial more generally touted Brookfield as a great place to live or operate a business, while a 30-second commercial focuses on attracting developers by highlighting TIF incentives, a streamlined development process and a business-friendly environment.

“The goal is to get people thinking about Brookfield in the first round. … Then hopefully we can grab the big folks in the next round,” said Sbiral

Radio advertising is not cheap. Early estimates from Burtner suggested that the village could spend between $5,000 and $6,000 per week on ads that would run on WXRT-FM or WBBM-AM or a combination of the two stations.

The advertising campaign would be funded from revenues in the Ogden Avenue and Congress Park TIF funds. Right now, that means money is tight. The village has used and wants to continue to use TIF funds for property acquisition near the Ogden/Eberly gateway. The funds would also be used to host the developer event this fall.

The trouble, according to Sbiral, is that there is only about $138,000 in the TIF funds to put toward all of those initiatives.

“I probably have about $500,000 worth of projects and that’s why we need to be very careful about where we spend that $138,000,” Sbiral said.

Zoning board, plan commission to merge

Part of the new focus on economic development comes with a proposal to merge the Brookfield Plan Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals, essentially creating a seven-person planning supercommittee.

The timing for the change is right, said Sbiral, since there are several vacancies on the Zoning Board of Appeals and other terms expiring. The ZBA has met very infrequently in the past eight years. Most large-scale development in that time has been of the planned-unit variety, a process handled by the plan commission.

“I think consolidation allows us to focus our limited volunteers with those abilities,” said Sbiral. “If I have one board to work with … we can set up a little bit more consistent meeting schedule and utilize that more consistent meeting schedule, not only to vet projects and economic development and code changes, but also [put] forward some really good training for them.”

Sbiral said the changeover could be accomplished by early September if the village board agrees to merge the two groups.

“I don’t think there’s a downside for Brookfield,” said Sbiral. “I’d like to be prepared when cases come. We want the [planning group] to be prepared and do a great job with them.”

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