Location Focus: Illinois – Trying To Make Headway In Every Way

By Robert Tilton
From the July/August 2014 issue

Gov. Pat Quinn and state agencies are working together to advance Illinois. Through programs, incentives, business and resident support, they’re looking to grow the state’s economy and help embrace future possibilities.

Gov. Quinn launched the Welcome Home Illinois program in April. It is administered by the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) and offers $7,500 in down-payment assistance with an interest rate as low as 3.75 percent for a secure, 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. In less than four months, 2,830 homebuyers in 85 counties have reserved more than $360 million in financing, creating an estimated 1,400 new jobs.

“Hundreds of people that have been sidelined from the home buying market are taking advantage of Welcome Home Illinois,” Gov. Quinn said. “I have met countless families across Illinois who have benefitted from our program. By giving hardworking residents the opportunity to achieve their dream and buy a home, we are strengthening and stabilizing communities across Illinois and driving our economy forward.”

According to the Illinois Government News Network (IGNN), “In 2013, 3,000 families purchased homes through one of IHDA’s programs, generating 1,500 jobs and infusing $70 million into Illinois’ economy. Projections show that even just a 15 percent increase in 2014 could generate an additional 1,725 jobs and infuse another $10 million into Illinois’ economy.”

In addition to driving the housing market, first-time homebuyers also invest in furnishings, appliances and home goods. And the Illinois Association of Realtors advises that every home sold generates two jobs and $60,000 in ripple effects to the overall economy.

Gov. Quinn also looks to embrace green energy with the Illinois Clean Energy Fund. This venture capital fund allocated with $2.3 million from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s (DCEO) federal grants and a matching amount from the Clean Energy Trust (advisory services provided by Freshwater Advisors) will make $4.6 million available to grow early-stage clean energy businesses in the state.

According to the Chicago Tribune, “The fund will award convertible notes initially ranging from $100,000 to $500,000 to early-stage Illinois-based companies working in renewable energy, energy efficiency, smart grid, next-generation transportation and water resource management. Returns generated by the awards will be reinvested into more of Illinois’ emerging clean energy businesses.”

David Roeder, spokesman for the Illinois DCEO, explains that potential investments “could mean a lot to early stage companies, and more importantly could turn into an ownership stake in those companies that the state could sell at a profit.”

From energy to technology, the DCEO is investing $2.5 million in 1871, an incubator for tech startups, expanding its 50,000-square-foot space to 75,000-square feet this summer. Expected to be complete and open in mid-October, the expansion will allow 1871 to house larger companies that have outgrown their current space but want to continue to grow within the 1871 environment; create, grow or expand incubators and accelerators in critical areas; house venture capital firms looking to invest in local companies; and serve as a launching pad for existing businesses.

“In just two short years, 1871, its member companies and alumni have created more than 1,000 jobs,” Gov. Quinn said. “1871 has become a true entrepreneurial hub for our state.”


Arlington Heights is a growing, thriving community just northwest of Chicago, home to 76,000 residents with an average household income of $95,000. Access is one of the top assets the community offers to businesses. Two Metra commuter rail stations link it to Downtown Chicago and a host of other northwest suburban municipalities. Served by three interstate highways: I-90, I-290 and I-355, Arlington Heights is conveniently located only 10 miles from O’Hare International Airport and five miles from Chicago Executive Airport. Its interstate highway connectivity allows Arlington Heights incomparable positioning within the Chicago metropolitan area and access to logistics by air and ground transport.

Arlington Downs
When completed, the Arlington Downs mixed-use development will bring over 650 luxury residences, a new hotel, a water park and over 100,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space to Arlington Heights. (Photo: Village of Arlington Heights.)

Several of the nation’s fastest-growing companies call Arlington Heights its home. Both Paylocity and Aurico Reports, Inc. were named to the 2013 “Inc. 5000” list, representing the 5,000 fastest growing companies in the country. Star Cinema Grill, a Houston-based movie theater chain, opened its first location outside the State of Texas in Downtown Arlington Heights in July 2013. Rapidly growing grocery chain Mariano’s opened its very first store in Arlington Heights, while full-service grocer Joe Caputo & Sons Fruit Market will open a new store in the community this year. European Imports relocated here in April as well. The company has been a Chicago area staple since the 1970s, specializing in importing and distributing fine European food products such as meats, cheeses and sauces.

Other established businesses have continued to call Arlington Heights home. Arlington International Racecourse is one the world’s premiere horse racing venues. It has been the home of the Arlington Million, one of thoroughbred racing’s richest events, since 1981. The racetrack also will be the home of Ditka’s Restaurant. Co-owned by NFL legend and Super Bowl winning head coach Mike Ditka, this will be the fine dining restaurant’s third Chicagoland location. Mitsuwa Marketplace is the largest Japanese grocery store in the Midwest, and services a large tourist population in addition to regular patrons throughout the Chicago area. Other notable employers such as The Daily Herald newspaper maintain their corporate headquarters in Arlington Heights, while Nokia Siemens Networks, GE Healthcare and AT&T continue to have a substantial presence in terms of footprint and employment.

Arlington Heights also remains a target of significant development. The Arlington Downs project is a new and exciting addition to the Chicago market. When complete, the $250 million mixed-use development will boast over 650 luxury apartment units, a hotel, a water park and over 100,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space. Set on more than 27 acres of land just west of Arlington International Racecourse, the development will have immediate access to IL-53 and be a unique destination in Chicagoland. Arlington Downs is being completed in phases. The first phase, One Arlington Apartments, is slated for completion this fall.

As part of the community’s efforts to grow and support commerce and industry, Arlington Heights recently approved a Zero Interest Loan program available to both new and existing businesses. Interested business or property owners can apply for an interest-free loan of up to half their project cost, capping at $10,000. Eligible expenses range from the purchase of new equipment to technology upgrades to improvements of existing facilities.

Arlington Heights also is home to an exceptional quality of life. Arlington Heights high school students attend five of the State’s top 35 public high schools, according to U.S. News & World Reports. Both Robert Morris University and ITT Technical Institute have satellite campuses in the community as well. The Arlington Heights Memorial Library is regularly ranked among the best public libraries for its size in the entire nation and has been given “five stars” by Library Journal, its highest rating. The community also is served by a highly acclaimed Park District and Northwest Community Hospital which continues to expand its operations and services. Arlington Heights features a unique, vibrant and award-winning Downtown, anchored by the Metropolis Performing Arts Center which offers top acts and live theater in an intimate setting.

Arlington Heights provides an exceptional location for its more than 4,000 businesses. With outstanding quality of life and access to the entire Chicago metro area, Arlington Heights is primed to continue to grow and thrive.


Located in the heart of the Midwest and serving as the Agri-business center of America, Decatur, Illinois is poised for its most significant economic development in more than 50 years. Already home to ADM’s North American headquarters as well as Tate & Lyle’s largest North American operating facility and Caterpillar’s Hauling and Mining Division, Decatur is now also the location of the recently launched Midwest Inland Port.

Anchored by the privately owned and operated Decatur Rail and Intermodal Logistics Facility located on more than 250 acres, the Midwest Inland Port provides direct access to three Class I railroads (Norfolk Southern, Canadian National and the CSX). This facility complements Norfolk Southern’s largest North American flat rail yard which also is located in Decatur.

Decatur has direct connectivity to five major highways (Interstates 72, 55, 57 and 74 and U.S. Highway 51), which puts more than 90 million consumers within an easily accessible 500-mile radius. In addition, Decatur has an airport with a Class I Instrument Landing System and runways of 8,400 feet capable of supporting wide-body aircraft.

Efficient, cost-effective, non-congested, full-service access to domestic and international locations is the foundation of the ability to get to any customer to any place at any time—domestically and internationally.

Existing Foreign Trade Zone and U.S. Customs capabilities are being enhanced to provide an even more robust set of services to meet virtually any business need.

Decatur has traditionally been a high quality manufacturing center for decades with a highly qualified technical workforce. Decatur’s ability to provide qualified technical workers for a variety of business and manufacturing needs also is supported by the technical training resources provided by Richland Community College in its $16 million investment in the newly established Workforce Development Institute.

Unparalleled transportation capabilities, geographic location and a skilled workforce augmented by advanced technical training resources makes Decatur an ideal choice for businesses interested in manufacturing, assembly, distribution and many other possibilities.

Decatur has been investing in critical initiatives that enhance its ability to meet the needs of its citizens and its businesses for years to come.

The City of Decatur recently approved a $90+ million investment to permanently increase the capacity of Lake Decatur by more than 30 percent. The lake, which covers more than 2,800 acres and is located within the City, is the community’s primary source of water.

Lake Decatur also is the focus of another major project being undertaken by the Decatur Park District. Lakeshore Landing is envisioned to be a premier regional destination offering big city amenities in a beautiful lakeside setting on Lake Decatur. This multi-year, multi-phase initiative to develop the lake area into an entertainment and living destination is underway. A quality boardwalk, ample boat docks, a quality marina, restaurants, shopping and residential living are all part of this comprehensive plan to help establish Decatur as a destination for people of all ages and to dramatically enhance the quality of life within the City. The Decatur Park District also operates three public golf courses and the Scovill Zoo, which is located on property next to the Children’s Museum of Illinois.

Quality of life and the robustness of the community were at the heart of another multi-year project to redevelop the streetscape of downtown Decatur. This project costing more than $17 million is now entering its final phase. The benefits of this investment already are being realized, and today the downtown area represents a hub of activity and is as attractive a downtown as can be found in downstate Illinois.

The City is well served by a combination of quality public and parochial schools, as well as Richland Community College and Millikin University. It also is more than halfway through a more than $70 million reinvention of its two public high schools.

Decatur is a community that is investing in itself today to prepare for the opportunities of tomorrow. With priority being given to foundational needs such as education, technical training and critical infrastructure; with additional attention being given to quality of life investments; and with its centralized location and capabilities provided by the Midwest Inland Port, Decatur is establishing itself as a great place to call home.


Wheeling’s position as a dynamic business and industrial center continues to prosper. It is home to more than 800 businesses, making it one of the largest business-industrial hubs in Chicago’s northwest suburbs. Wheeling offers approximately 13.5 million square feet of industrial space under roof along with several expansive industrial parks which provide room for companies to grow. More than 20,000 jobs are generated by Wheeling-based businesses, attesting to the community’s economic strength. Of those jobs, approximately 33.5 percent are in the manufacturing sector and nearly 20 percent are in the wholesale and retail sectors.

ICAR Team CEO Anton Koretskov and Village President Dean Argiris celebrate completion of the company’s major renovation at 100 Chaddick Drive in Wheeling, IL. (Photo: Village of Wheeling.)

Last year retail sales by Wheeling businesses surpassed $558 million, and this year’s sales are even stronger, up overall by nearly 11.1 percent. That number reflects a 6.7 percent increase in restaurant sales and a 14.9 percent increase in general merchandise sales. Hotel performance also remains strong, with occupancies over 70 percent. The Westin Chicago North Shore hotel offers over 400 rooms and 30,000 square feet of conference and meeting space.

Wheeling’s unemployment rate has remained relatively stable over the last 10 years, but declined to 7.1 percent in 2013, down from 7.7 percent in 2012. Although unemployment in Wheeling is still at one of the highest rates in the last 10 years, stronger revenue numbers and a decline in the number of unemployed over the last year are positive trends.

A review of the available space inventory reveals that Wheeling’s industrial parks continue to experience strong demand from both existing and new businesses. These are promising signs for prospective businesses, especially in the industrial sector. The growth and development that has occurred in Wheeling is another positive indicator of an economic recovery.

One example of this activity is the more than 120,000-square-foot industrial facility located at 1234 Peterson Drive along with five acres of vacant land across the street which was sold late in 2013 to an industrial development firm. The property is being prepared for occupancy sometime in September 2014 by FedEx Ground Services to accommodate its expanding operations. The budgeted renovations amount to more than $13 million.

Completion of another major industrial expansion was celebrated this past May. The purchasers of the property at 100 Chaddick Drive were granted a Class 6B property tax abatement at the beginning of 2013, and substantial renovation of the approximately 72,000-square-foot facility began in June 2013 with a target completion date of June 2014. The purchasers acquired the property to accommodate the growth of their related manufacturing businesses and the cost of the renovations totaled more than $1 million.

Village President Dean Argiris acknowledged the importance of the role of the community’s industrial base at the ribbon cutting ceremony for this property, “The key to the resiliency of our local economy is the wide range of industrial businesses that call Wheeling home—these companies make substantial contributions not only in property and sales taxes and jobs, but they are also very actively engaged with our community. I truly appreciate how they’ve built partnerships with our high school for the business incubator and community colleges for internships and with other Wheeling businesses to support each other’s continued growth and success. This kind of proactive engagement by our industrial manufacturing businesses is what makes us a dynamic and vibrant community that we can all be proud to call home.”

At Chicago Executive Airport (CEA), Atlantic Aviation completed construction of a new hangar. Also at CEA, the groundbreaking of the 30,000-square-foot Tin Goose hangar facility took place in spring 2013; the facility was completed late last year and has since been leased to an aviation user. In late 2013, Gov. Quinn and the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) announced the state would make an investment of $5.3 million for runway improvements at Chicago Executive Airport.

Chicago Executive Airport links Wheeling to the world, with international visitors from India to Canada to South America regularly traveling through the airport. Few communities can boast of a similar connection to the national and international world of business and commerce. Chicago Executive Airport serves as a hub for business and industry, and as a logical magnet drawing businesses to the area. The Village plans to capitalize upon this business development asset by attracting complementary aviation and business services, hospitality and dining opportunities. An overlapping Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district offers a strategic financing mechanism for pending and proposed developments in and around the airport. The Village remains committed to the health and prosperity of this valuable resource, which represents a means by which it can extend its reach to the world. To learn more about Chicago Executive Airport, please visit www.chiexec.com/.


DuPage County, situated in O’Hare International Airport’s backyard and just 20 miles west of Chicago is the second largest county in Illinois. DuPage County has kept up with times and transformed its economy to embrace the new wave of commercial markets, including technology, manufacturing and retail. Because of this adaptability to progress, DuPage is home to several Fortune 500 and 100 companies, a plethora of accredited higher education institutions as well as two national laboratories (Argonne National Laboratory and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory). With this foundation of successful commercial growth DuPage County boasts the highest per capita income in the state and the Midwest, making it one of the most desirable counties in the entire U.S for the establishment of business opportunity.

Chicago Executive Airport
This new hangar facility was completed in 2013 by Tin Goose at Chicago Executive Airport. (Photo: Village of Wheeling.)

Just as its central location made it a natural site to establish a trading post in the 1700s, DuPage County’s proximity to the nation’s third largest airport, three major interstates and extensive rail freight system (Chicago is the nation’s rail hub) makes it ideally situated for both national and international business. At the crossroads of the nation, DuPage gives companies easy access to distribution, supply chains and the global business community.

Furthering DuPage County’s economic mission is Choose DuPage. By partnering with local agencies and its Board of Directors, Choose DuPage has nurtured the County’s consistent and unprecedented growth. Choose DuPage supports local municipal economic development initiatives by growing, retaining and attracting businesses. Additionally, Choose DuPage pays close attention and addresses local legislation and policy issues critical to businesses in the region.

Businesses that make their home in DuPage County have a competitive advantage when it comes to recruiting the best talent. DuPage is known for its excellent schools, world-class entertainment and culture, and access to national and international travel. All of these combine to offer a quality of life that is second to none. DuPage County also boasts a highly skilled labor force, ranked #1 in the State of Illinois’ educational attainment, allowing DuPage County to meet the demands of the 21st century business community.

Unlike other areas of the country, DuPage County is still reaping benefits from its origins as an agricultural economy. Rather than being restricted to locations that provide little opportunity to expand, the County offers the room and freedom for business to grow and prosper, unfettered by the limitations of available space.

Furthering these goals, are two special projects that will be imperative to advancing DuPage County on the global business market:

Western Access O’Hare: The Western Access O’Hare project is set to further accelerate the economy of the region. As a leading international gateway in the U.S., O’Hare International Airport is a vital transportation link between the Chicago region and the rest of the world. The project will add nearly 50 expressway lane miles, connecting two major interstates from the west to meet the future transportation needs of the region. Along with the increased transportation and infrastructure, the Western Access O’Hare project development will create a new corridor of economic growth for DuPage County. Additionally, the Western Access O’Hare project will further modernize and diversify the economic base of the region. 127-square-miles of untapped opportunity will now become prime locations for businesses. These enterprises also will realize significant financial benefit through savings on fuel and travel times. Plus, the construction and support needed to create this new corridor will bring 65,000 new jobs to the region.

Rev3 Innovation Center: Another exciting initiative that will soon be adding to the success of DuPage County is Rev3 Innovation Center. Rev3’s mission is to assist people and companies in manufacturing products, writing software and developing technology to drive the third industrial revolution sweeping the globe. As with other co-working spaces and incubators, a key feature of the innovation center will be the opportunity to collaborate with and share ideas with like-minded users and entrepreneurs from other businesses.