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Talking Turkey in Elgin

The Chamber hosted State Sen Keith Farnham (seated) dignitaries from Turkey which Farnham toured late last year an economic development

The Chamber hosted State Sen Keith Farnham (seated) and dignitaries from Turkey, which Farnham toured late last year on an economic development fact finding mission per trying to create trade relationships with that nation. February 15, 2013 | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 20, 2013 6:13AM

ELGIN — The Fabric Images store here gets much of its textiles — used to create artistic commercial displays — from Istanbul, Turkey.

However, those textiles are shipped from Milan, Italy, and storage and customs can sometimes delay product, said Deana Hayes of Fabric Images. An office in Istanbul, or another development zone in Turkey, could help overcome some of those logistic problems, she told an Elgin business group Friday.

She was one local delegate from business, local and state government, and the Chamber of Commerce who attended a meeting of the Elgin Development Group, state Rep. Keith Farnham, and representatives from Turkey.

Farnham requested the visit and meeting with local leaders. He and a delegate from the Illinois General Assembly visited the country — which straddles Europe and Asia — last November.

“When you go there and see how dynamic, how much growth and industry there is ... it reminds me of when I came to Chicago 35 years ago,” Farnham said.

Unlike its neighbor, Greece, which has seen political and economic upheaval, Turkey has a growing economy, said Hilmi Cinar of the Niagara Foundation — one organization working to bring American business investment to the country.

And unlike its other neighbor, Syria, Turkey has a stable, democratic, secular government, he said — and a good working relationship with all of those neighbors, regardless of religion or politics, Cinar said.

“We did not choose to be there, but we have a great history and relationship with all of those countries,” he said.

One of the major differences between it and some of its European, Asian and near-East neighbors is Turkey also has a younger, working-age population. Half of its citizens are under age 30, Cinar said.

Elgin Mayor David Kaptain said there are many reasons Elgin should be working with business to find overseas markets as a way to advance business here. Elgin also is in the beginning stages to set up a Sister City relationship in Chile, to help products made here find markets there, and vice versa.

One other Elgin-based business, in the transportation and shipping industry, also got good information at the meeting on how to lower its tax burden by moving an existing Turkish office to a zone with tax incentives, Kaptain said.

Sometimes, it does take one-on-one communication to find those avenues.

“Governor Quinn has an aggressive goal to double exports by the end of 2014,” said Joe McKeown of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s local office. “The state trade and export program, along with our partnerships with countries like Turkey, will help us achieve this goal and create new jobs here at home.”

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