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From the storyteller: Local economy showing signs of life



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Updated: February 10, 2012 8:41AM

Things are looking up for businesses in the Fox Valley.

And I’m not just saying that because — full disclosure — my husband works in commercial real estate in Kane County. (Although being a newlywed does lend itself to all kinds of optimism.)

I’m saying that because the U.S. Department of Labor announced Friday a burst of hiring in December has pushed the unemployment rate to its lowest level since February 2009. With that, employers added a net 200,000 jobs last month, and the national unemployment rate fell to 8.5 percent.

The unemployment rate hasn’t dipped quite that low in, say, Elgin, where Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka noted the persistent 11 percent unemployment rate, while hosting her second employment expo last month at Elgin Community College.

But chambers of commerce across the Fox Valley noted that same optimism among business owners in 2011.

“People are more celebratory and feel more excited about where their businesses are going than they were the year before. I think that attitude is what’s going to bring that growth in 2012,” said Melissa Hernandez, executive director of the Northern Kane County Chamber of Commerce.

Hernandez said business last year in the northern Fox Valley “exceeded even our expectations for the area.” And in December, the Northern Kane County Chamber of Commerce already had two ribbon cuttings scheduled for this month, she said.

The businesses we talked to in the Elgin, Naperville and Aurora areas pegged watching what businesses ventures are doing well: listening to customers and doing what they love as reasons for their growth. That and, of course, optimism.

Here’s a look at those businesses. Take a page from their books and a look at the bright side. And have a very happy 2012!

— Emily McFarlan, staff writer

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