17th District House hopeful says his job would be making sure everyone else has jobs
Unlike many state politicians who move from one government office to another, independent businessman Mark Kleine is entering the Republican primary race for the 17th Congressional District fresh, with a particular focus on job creation and vibrant local economies.
“I'm running on jobs, jobs and jobs,” Kleine told Rock Island Today.
This central campaign focus really meshes with his experience, he says. Throughout the 23 years that Kleine has lived in Galesburg, he's been involved in local business, first as a John Deere dealer and later running a development company with his wife that has invested heavily in Galesburg’s downtown, leading to the creation of new local businesses like a brew pub, clothing consignment shop and other storefronts.
“For 25 years, I made deals,” Kleine said. “That’s my goal: to help the district; to try to create some jobs.”
Kleine and his wife are extremely active in the local community, owning downtown properties, working with local offices and generally trying to stimulate growth in business districts. Kleine has chaired the Knox County Partnership for Economic Development, and his wife, Jeanette, has chaired the local chamber of commerce.
Talking about specific ways to foster development in a town or city, Kleine said mapping commercial real estate properties can work, and a tax increment financing, or TIF, district can also be a viable tool for economic growth. Many of his real estate projects have been in a local TIF district.
“It provides developers an incentive to develop properties,” Kleine said. “It's short term; it's not forever.”
Typically, a TIF plan includes taking new tax levies from individual property upgrades and putting them in a fund to improve local infrastructure. Kleine said it can be an emotional issue because it redirects taxpayer money, but it often pays in terms of larger real estate tax bases when the commercial property thrives in a better-developed environment.
Kleine is also emphatically bipartisan.
“I'm not a politician,” Kleine said. “I'm very passionate about the community – I don't care if they're Democrats or Republicans – I just want to work with people to get things done.”
In a recent statement, Kleine has expounded on that idea and explained why it's time for a new direction in Illinois politics.
“I have seen what vision and commitment to our local area can do to improve things,” Kleine wrote. “We need a congressman who has a record of creating jobs. Someone who is focused on what we can accomplish together. Someone who wants to go to Washington, D.C., and work on both sides of the aisle to move our country forward. I am that person. I have created jobs, I have grown the economy and improved the community by working with other people and knowing how to make deals happen. The time for partisanship is long past us, and we need to elect a United States representative for northwest Illinois who is going to put our district ahead of politics.”
Democrat Cheri Bustos of East Moline has been the U.S. representative from the district since 2013.