Industrial Powerhouse Rules in the Land of Lincoln

Illinois boasts a $590-billion economy, the fifth largest in the nation, and a talented workforce that numbers more than six million.

Situated at the geographic center of the nation, the state of Illinois also is a crossroads for a wide range of business sectors, including manufacturing, finance, agriculture, technology, and warehousing and distribution.

With Chicago in the northeast, small industrial cities and great agricultural productivity in central and western Illinois, and natural resources like coal, timber, and petroleum in the south, Illinois has a broad economic base. The state’s excellent transportation infrastructure makes it a natural and cost-effective location for any business. Not only does it offer one of the best interstate highway networks in the country, but it is also at the center of the national rail network, is home to O’Hare International Airport, the world’s second busiest airport, as well as major commuter hubs both at Midway Airport and throughout downstate Illinois.

Illinois is home to a dozen port districts, some located in Foreign Trade Zones, which provide low-cost production and warehousing facilities for imported and export-bound products. The Port of Chicago connects the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River via the Illinois River.

Along with a $590 billion economy—the nation’s fifth largest—Illinois boasts a six-million-strong workforce and is home to 33 Fortune 500 companies and the world’s largest futures and options exchange, CME Group Inc. Nearly half of the more than 6 million workers in Illinois are professionals, skilled technicians, craftspeople, or machine operators. More than 50 percent of the state’s workforce has gained education beyond high school. In addition, Illinois worker productivity exceeds the U.S. average by $0.35 per hour.

With more than 200 academic, government, and non-profit research institutions and a breadth of rich offerings in medical, agricultural, industrial biotechnology, nanotechnology, and information technology, Illinois is well known as one of the nation’s high technology leaders. Tech companies located in the state include Orbitz, Yahoo!, Navteq, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Intel, THQ, Lucent, and Tellabs.

The state’s world-class research and education institutions, including the University of Illinois, Northwestern University, and the University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business, conduct research across a broad range of fields and are on the forefront of the technological frontier. They provide resources to support every state and area of innovative technology development, from basic research start-ups to large corporations. Incubators and research parks are located throughout Illinois in an effort to provide facilities for research and development. These technology parks provide employment for thousands of professionals while generating millions of dollars in research funding. To help spur future development in the state, the Illinois Department of Transportation recently unveiled an $11.25-billion multi-year highway improvement program beginning in 2010. If your business is looking to locate in a forward-looking economy with access to one of the largest markets in the U.S., the following Illinois locations would be a perfect fit.

Decatur: Mid-Sized Community with Big-Sized Activity

If you were asked to name the Midwest community with more than $650 million in current and upcoming capital investment and recent job creation, and retention numbers totaling nearly 2,000, which also is the home to ground-breaking, collaborative research in alternative fuels, which would you choose—Indianapolis? St. Louis? Des Moines? The Illinois-Iowa Quad Cities? Memphis?

If you chose any of those, you’d be wrong. Decatur and Macon County, IL has seen unprecedented growth and investment locally, even as the rest of the United States is clawing its way out of one of the most impactful recessions in our country’s history.

Equipment manufacturer, Caterpillar considers its Decatur plant one of its flagship manufacturing facilities. With a presence in the community since the 1940s, Cat Decatur is currently undergoing a $500 million capital investment project in order to meet global demand for mining trucks. The company has more than 4,000 employees in the Decatur area and has a Macon County footprint that covers 350 acres and 25 buildings.

Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) is another significant corporate presence in the region. The company employs more than 4,000 people in its global headquarters, and research and development facilities—all located in Macon County. Even in our country’s recent tough economic times, ADM continued to grow, adding jobs paying annual average wages well above the medium income for the region. This past fall, ADM broke ground on a new 100-acre rail yard in order to better utilize the area’s tremendous rail system which is criss-crossed by three Class 1 Railways: Norfolk Southern, Canadian National and CSX.

Suppliers to these and other regional corporations have also been impacted by this growth, creating further investment and job creation in the region.

Led by the Midwest Geological Sequestration Consortium composed of Archer Daniels Midland, Richland Community College, the Illinois State Geological Survey, Schlumberger Carbon Services and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Technology Laboratory, Decatur is an active participant in one of the nation’s first large-scale studies intended to show that carbon dioxide emissions can be permanently stored underground in rock formations. The completed 8,000-foot deep injection well will be connected to ADM’s nearby corn wet mill by a pipeline which will transport carbon dioxide produced by the mill to the underground storage. By 2013, it is expected that 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide will be stored annually—approximately the amount of carbon dioxide generated by 220,000 cars each year.

Recognizing that “quality of place” is as important as many other factors in location decisions for both businesses and individuals, Decatur has major community revitalization projects in the works both in the heart of the community—the downtown—and the recreational center—Lake Decatur.

Archer Daniels Midland’s recent corporate decision to move 350 jobs to the downtown area is providing the spark for additional growth opportunities for new restaurants and specialty shops which are eagerly anticipating the influx of white collar professional staff. This coupled with a collaborative truck rerouting project between the city and the State of Illinois will create a more vibrant, pedestrian-friendly area, giving a true facelift to the downtown.

The Decatur Lakefront Project brings both an increased local water supply and additional recreational opportunities and venues to the region. Running trails, an amphitheater, Dog Park, Frisbee golf course, boardwalk, miniature golf, boat docks and Water Park are all part of this exciting redevelopment of the lake area.

Become a part of one of the most vibrant corporate and community cultures in the Midwest, contact the Economic Development Corporation of Decatur and Macon County to see where your company fits in at 217.422.9520 or visit

Development Thrives In Wheeling

A multi-dimensional economic development strategy that leverages all available resources in a highly coordinated effort is having great results in the Village of Wheeling, IL.

There are several major redevelopment projects currently underway in Wheeling. Located at one of the Village’s major intersections at Milwaukee Avenue and Dundee Road, the Fresh Farms Shopping Center, is being completely demolished and reconstructed. The new shopping center, currently under construction directly behind the original edifice, will be anchored by a 31,000 sq. ft. Fresh Farms grocery store, and includes an additional 32,000 sq. ft. of retail space and 4,000 sq. ft out lot building on Dundee Road. In addition, the Village retained a portion of the hard corner for future construction of a public plaza and a yet to be determined aesthetic feature. Based on the progress of construction and pre-leasing activity, this project should be completed by the third quarter of 2011.

The Wal-Mart store on Lake Cook Road has been selected to be expanded to a Super Wal-Mart. The exterior construction is in process, to be followed by the interior work, all of which would add a total of 40,000 sq. ft. to this store. The work is targeted for completion by the second quarter of 2012.

A major new industrial tenant we will welcome to Wheeling this year is Protect-a-Bed, which is locating its headquarters and Midwest distribution operation to a 219,000 sq. ft. on Wolf Road. The planned build-out and rehabilitation includes a substantial amount of investment and is in the initial planning stages, and the company is looking to be operating in this site by June 2011.

One of Wheeling’s major industrial businesses, Engis Corporation, is ready to initiate a major facility expansion and rehabilitation. The company plans to construct a 53,000 sq. ft. addition and substantially rehabilitate their existing 67,500 sq. ft. building. Engis plans to invest an estimated $5 million for the proposed addition, and an additional $1 million to renovate the existing building.

The Korean Cultural Center of Chicago recently purchased a 33,400 sq. ft. five-building office complex on Palatine Road to relocate their headquarters from Chicago. They are rehabilitating the property to serve as its new regional headquarters.

In February, the Village Board selected Urban R2 as the Developer of Record for a key 11-acre property next to the Wheeling Metra Station that is considered to be Phase 1 of a master Town Center T.O.D. development. Located in the heart of town on Dundee Road and directly adjacent to the Metra commuter train station, this project is ideally positioned for a high-density, pedestrian-friendly mixed use development. This neighborhood includes the new Village Hall building, the Wheeling Park District Recreation Facility and Water Park, and the Metra station. The total project cost is estimated to exceed $110 million, and detailed planning will continue through 2011.

According to Peter Vadopalas, director of economic development, Wheeling is has an active effort to fill niches for family entertainment and the after dinner crowd on Restaurant Row, located on the Milwaukee Avenue Corridor. Wheeling is known for destination dining along Milwaukee Avenue, and between Village-owned properties and available redevelopment sites, there is room for additional entertainment and restaurant businesses in the neighborhood.

Additionally, Vadopalas says that while Wheeling experienced a spike in industrial leasing activity, the Village continues to seek out advanced manufacturing companies to join its growing industrial community. Wheeling is blessed with a strong industrial base–approximately 13 million sq ft under roof–and its continued growth is a major priority for the Village.

Wheeling enjoys an infrastructure that most communities would envy. Businesses have quick access to regional highways such as I-294 and I-355. The Village owns Chicago Executive Airport, the third busiest in Illinois. The community is served by freight rail and passenger service to our Metra Station.

Wheeling is home to a number of educational institutions including National Louis University, the Northbrook College of Healthcare, Computer Systems Institute.

The Village administers five TIF Districts that primarily target new retail development, including a façade grant program to encourage beautification of existing buildings within these districts.

The Village has always managed the traditional economic development goals of business recruitment and retention, including regular site visits with local business owners, maintaining a collaborative relationship with the Chamber of Commerce, and encouraging land redevelopment within Wheeling’s TIF Districts. The current focus of local economic development officials increasingly is on enhancing civic capacity by leveraging resources among various community groups, business organizations, and agencies to find ways to better serve residents and businesses.

For instance, the Village’s economic development team has worked closely with Wheeling High School in supporting its STEM curriculum, and continues to build relationships among business leaders and educational institutions to ensure relevance of training programs and to communicate local workforce needs. Trade associations and outside advisory groups are being integrated with industrial outreach efforts. In addition, Wheeling continues to build communication infrastructure with additional online and social media platforms.

According to Valdopalas, Wheeling business retention has been re-prioritized as a top focus.

“Increased coordination with our Chamber of Commerce, local business owners, and maintaining our visibility with development and broker associations has kept up a consistent level of visits and inquiries from prospective businesses,” he said. “In this marketplace, information and time are critical resources and we work to maximize our responsiveness and we spend a great deal of effort in maintaining an understanding of our local market.”

At Chicago Executive Airport, the Village was able to encourage the development of a major new corporate office and hangar project by an investment group that was seeking a Chicagoland location and evaluate a number of area airports. The Village will reimburse for soft costs for the project. Chicago Executive Airport has begun a series of multi-million dollar improvements including runway enhancements and new hangar construction to keep it the location of choice for major companies that maintain private fleets, as well as for individual pilots.

Similarly, the Village was able to acquire a shuttered Wickes building out of a bankruptcy auction, which led to the selection of a development group through an extensive RFP process. This 11-acre site is key to initiating the detailed site planning of an envisioned town center development around the Wheeling Metra Station. The public investment in the new Village Hall, new Police headquarters, and the planned redevelopment of Heritage Park, all next to the redevelopment area, led to a high level of interest from private investors in planning of the town center project now.