CityGate Centre Class-A Office Space

Development Services Firm Koru Group Moving HQ to Naperville’s CityGate Centre

Calamos Real Estate LLC recently announced it has entered into a lease agreement with Koru Group, PLLC, a development services firm, to relocate its headquarters to CityGate Centre in Naperville. Koru will occupy 7,752 square feet of Class-A office space at 2135 CityGate Ln. The lease will commence on March 1 of this year.

Koru Group was incorporated in Geneva, Illinois in 2022 by merging longstanding firm Craig R Knoche Civil Engineers and Surveyors, owned by Steven Kudwa, with ECA Architects and Planners, owned by Eric Carlson, to create a seamless and holistic design process.

“Coming together as a new entity, we are excited to move to a new space that not only accommodates growth, but also is in an exceptional environment that reflects our brand,” said Kudwa. “Eric and I work diligently to maintain the highest level of quality but it’s our true commitment to serving our clients that sets us apart from other design firms.” 

Koru Group serves clients in more than 15 states specializing in private land development projects by bringing together a robust design team of architects and engineers to create projects that fit their client’s needs.  

“Many of our clients have shared that while they can’t tell the difference between an ‘A’ set of plans or a ‘B’ set of plans, they can certainly tell the difference between ‘A’ level of service and ‘B’ level of service,” said Carlson. “We are committed to providing both at all levels of our organization.”

At CityGate Centre, the best attributes of an urban neighborhood – walkable access to fine dining along with casual fare; green space; a Forbes-rated, AAA Four Diamond hotel; healthcare, spa & fitness facilities; new, luxury apartments; and easy access via the state and interstate highway systems – are together in a pristine, suburban setting. The mixed-use campus provides ample parking, food options, workout facilities and more that tenants are looking for.

Calamos Real Estate LLC, a subsidiary of Calamos Property Holdings LLC, is focused on real estate activities throughout the United States, including acquisitions, development opportunities and joint ventures. The firm’s flagship development, CityGate Centre in Naperville, is a unique mixed-use development offering superior leasing opportunities for corporate and commercial tenants, as well as property management services of the highest caliber.

business feature merkur

Merkur is Giving Chicagoland Manufacturers an Upgrade

Canadian engineering firm Merkur recently opened an office in Downers Grove, Illinois. Now, they’re working with longtime client Lion Electric – a zero-emissions vehicle manufacturer in nearby Joliet – as well as other Chicagoland businesses, to improve their efficiency and help them compete in a dynamic global market. Let’s take a look at what factors attracted Merkur to DuPage and how they’re helping shape the region’s future. 

Merkur was looking for the next big thing.

For nearly 30 years, the Quebec, Canada-based engineering firm had partnered with manufacturers across North America. During that time, they built a reputation as the “brains of the industry,” helping their clients upgrade systems, eliminate bottlenecks, develop new products, and build strategies that help businesses stay competitive.

From the very beginning, one of Merkur’s differentiators was their focus on implementation—the art of getting stuff done. While other engineering firms may provide helpful information, Merkur takes it a step further, working directly with clients to put their plans into action. Got a bottleneck that’s slowing down your factory? They identify the problem, tell you how to fix it, then work with you to make it happen. Going electric? They develop a plan to modify your assembly line and solve various logistical challenges, like sourcing and storing batteries. Then, they help you put that plan into action.

To put it another way, Merkur’s business is all about evolution: evolving products, assembly lines and entire businesses.

So when it came time to evolve their own company, they were ready.  

In 2021, the firm decided to open a second location. At the time, change was sweeping through the manufacturing industry; the technology was evolving, the supply chain was reorganizing, and the Electric Vehicles (EV) sector was revving up its engines. While Merkur’s portfolio had grown in recent years, they saw an opportunity to expand into new markets and help lead manufacturers through times of big, fast change. For decades, they helped Quebec’s manufacturing industry evolve; now, they were ready to bring their expertise to a new market.

But first, they had to choose the right location. And as they began weighing their options, they found a (literal) world of possibilities.

A Global Search

As they began their search for a second office location, Merkur kept an open mind. They considered places around the world, from Ontario to France. From the outset, they wanted their new office to focus on their core business: manufacturing’s transportation sector, the making of buses, ambulances, trucks, trains and ATVs. Whatever location they chose, it would have to be a place where this industry had a bright future.

“And then an opportunity came along,” said Jonathan Levesque, Merkur’s Director of Business Development and USA Market. “That’s often how life works, isn’t it? You prepare, you get ready for your next big move, and then something shows up.

“What showed up, of course, was Lion Electric.”

Follow the Leader

Lion Electric Chicagoland

Also based in Quebec, Lion Electric manufactures zero-emissions vehicles like school buses and urban trucks. For years, Merkur had partnered with Lion to improve their Canadian manufacturing plant and assist in product design.

One day, when Merkur was in the middle of their search for a second location, they received a call from their longtime client. As it turned out, Lion Electric was also looking to expand into a new market. Their search had brought them to Northern Illinois, the heart of the U.S. manufacturing industry and an epicenter of the growing EV sector. Lion planned to build a new headquarters in Joliet, a 900,000-square foot facility that would produce up to 20,000 electric vehicles each year.

They were building the future in Chicagoland, and they wanted Merkur to join them.  

The “Sweet Spot”

Working with Choose DuPage, which provided data and analysis on local market conditions, the Merkur team took an in-depth look at Northern Illinois’ manufacturing sector.

Jonathan Levesque Merkur
Jonathan Levesque, Merkur’s Director of Business Development and USA Market

“We quickly discovered there’s a lot of similarity between Quebec and Chicagoland,” Jonathan said. “There are many manufacturers here that fall within our core business. In fact, there are more in Chicagoland than the entire province of Quebec.”

In the Chicagoland region, manufacturing roots run deep. As a result, the market is a mix of new, ‘greenfield’ factories, like Lion Electric’s Joliet facility, and legacy manufacturers that have been operating in the region for decades. Merkur saw an opportunity to do business with both.

“Chicagoland really is the sweet spot,” said Dan Krohn, Business Development Manager at Merkur. “On the one hand, we’re very interested in the shiny new facilities. We want to be on the front end of planning those factories.

Dan Krohn Merkur
Dan Krohn, Business Development Manager at Merkur

“On the other, you have all these third-generation, fourth-generation businesses in the Chicago area. They’ve evolved, they’ve grown. But maybe they haven’t grown with the most focused strategy, and now their facilities need a little engineering love. We can step in and help them with a five-year plan to restructure the layout, fix bottlenecks, whatever they need.

“The one thing all manufacturers have in common is that they continually need to improve their flow and become more efficient. We can help anybody do that, whether their factory is brand-new, very old, or somewhere in between.”

“There’s Something Happening Here”

In 2021, Merkur opened their new office in Downers Grove, Illinois. From here, the firm is a short drive from their client Lion Electric in Joliet, as well as hundreds of potential clients across the Northern Illinois region. Merkur is in the “sweet spot,” a place where they can continue serving a key legacy client while expanding their portfolio amid a growing market.

The firm sees a bright future for the region, and they plan to be a part of it. Between Chicagoland’s legacy as a manufacturing powerhouse and its ability to attract top talent, the region is a global manufacturing leader, and it’s already setting the stage for the industry’s future. 

Competition from other regions will be fierce, but part of Merkur’s role is to help local manufacturers adapt, upgrade and stay competitive at a global level. And that’s a good thing for Chicagoland. When Merkur helps local businesses function better and be more profitable, those businesses are more likely to continue bringing jobs and investment to the local community, while encouraging others to do the same.

For Merkur, one of the region’s most exciting aspects is its fast-growing EV sector. The firm saw how the industry transformed Quebec; now, they’re experiencing the beginning of a similar phenomenon in Northern Illinois.

“Every single customer that’s on rails or wheels is going electric, or at least talking about it. All of them,” Jonathan said.

“Seeing that Lion was moving to Illinois, along with Rivian and others, is exciting for us. We can feel there’s something happening here. We’ve been a part of it in Quebec, and now we’re part of it here in Chicagoland.”

Breakfast with the Chair

Breakfast with the Chair: How to Recruit the Best of the Best (And Keep Them)

DuPage County business leaders gathered at PowerForward DuPage on Wednesday, January 25 for a wide-ranging  discussion about talent recruitment and retention. Morgan Freitag Strahan and Kimberly Buck Gough, Co-Founders of Rekroot, a recruiting coaching and consulting company, led the session.

The Hon. Deborah Conroy, Chair of the DuPage County Board, opened the event referencing current labor force challenges. She welcomed the conversation about best practices in “training talent, planting seeds for the labor force we need today… and into the future.” Leaders from banking, manufacturing, government, healthcare, information technology, construction and engineering participated in the lively dialogue. Attendees talked about the difficulty they have finding workers, as well as sharing successes in recruiting and keeping outstanding employees.

2023 Future of Work Trends

Morgan and Kimberly outlined several trends that will be important for managers and employers in the next year.

1). Employers will “quiet hire” in-demand talent.

The concept of “quiet quitting” — the idea of employees refusing to go “above and beyond” and doing the minimum required in their jobs — dominated work-related headlines in the second half of 2022. When employees “quiet quit,” organizations keep people but lose skills and capabilities.

In 2023, savvy organizations will turn this practice on its head and embrace “quiet hiring” as a way to acquire new skills and capabilities without adding new full-time employees. This will manifest as encouraging internal talent mobility, providing upskilling opportunities, and leveraging alternative methods of recruitment.

2). Hybrid flexibility will reach the front lines.

As we enter a more permanent era of hybrid work for desk-based employees, it’s time to find equitable flexibility for frontline workers, like those in manufacturing and healthcare.

Rekroot’s research has found that frontline workers are looking for flexibility when it comes to what they work on, who they work with, and the amount they work — in particular, control over and stability in their work schedule, as well as paid leave.

3). Managers will find themselves sandwiched between leader and employee expectations.

60% of hybrid employees say their manager is their most direct connection to company culture. And yet, managers are struggling to balance their employee expectations of purpose, flexibility, and career opportunities with performance pressure from senior leaders.

In 2023, leading organizations will provide fresh support and training to mitigate the widening managerial skills gap while simultaneously clarifying manager priorities and redesigning their roles where necessary.

4). Pursuit of nontraditional candidates will expand talent pipelines.

For years, organizations have talked about the strategic value of expanding and diversifying their talent pipelines. With more employees charting nonlinear career paths and organizations having trouble meeting their talent needs through traditional sourcing methods, now is the time to act.

To fill critical roles in 2023, organizations will need to become more comfortable assessing candidates solely on the skills needed to perform in the role, rather than their credentials and prior experience. Organizations will do this by removing formal education and experience requirements from job postings and instead reaching out directly to internal or external candidates from nontraditional backgrounds who may not have access to certain professional opportunities, or even be aware of them.

5). Healing pandemic trauma will open path to sustainable performance.

As the immediate COVID-19 threat recedes, our collective adrenaline is wearing off, leaving employees to contend with long-term physical and emotional impacts. Employees’ stress and worry in 2022 grew above even 2020 peaks — nearly 60% of employees report they are stressed at their jobs every day. The societal, economic, and political turbulence of the last few years is manifesting as decreased productivity and performance, no-notice quitting and workplace conflict.

In 2023, leading organizations will support employees by providing:

  • Proactive rest to help employees maintain their emotional resilience and performance, as opposed to offering rest as a recovery solution after both have plummeted. This may include proactive PTO before high-demand working periods, no-meeting Fridays, allotted wellness time, and including team PTO in managers’ goals.
  • Discussion opportunities to work through challenges and difficult topics without judgment or consequences.
  • Trauma counselors to train and coach managers on workplace conflict as well as how to have difficult conversations with employees.

 6). Organizations will drive DEI forward amid growing pushbacks.

Rekroot’s research found 42% of employees believe their organization’s DEI efforts are divisive. This pushback to DEI efforts can decrease workforce engagement, inclusion, and trust.

To address this fraught moment and maintain DEI momentum, HR must equip managers with tools and strategies to engage resistant employees and address pushback early before it evolves into more disruptive forms of DEI resistance. This could include:

  • Creating group-specific safe spaces based on key employee demographic characteristics (e.g., gender, race/ethnicity) to proactively surface problems.
  • Tailoring communications and incentives to motivate allyship, for example, by recognizing and giving visibility to allies on internal platforms and company websites.
  • Upskilling employees with definitive “how-to” guidance that enables allyship by showing employees how, specifically, they can advance DEI goals via the actions they take in their professional capacities.

 7). Getting personal with employee support will create new data risks.

Being a human organization means knowing more about employees as people — a shift that has the potential to violate boundaries around deeply personal and private information. Organizations are increasingly using emerging technologies — artificial intelligence (AI) assistants, wearables, etc. — to collect data about employees’ health, family situations, living conditions, and mental health. While these technologies can enable employers to respond more effectively to employees’ needs, they also have the potential to create a looming privacy crisis.

In 2023, leading organizations will create an employee data bill of rights to support employees’ need for healthy boundaries in addition to overall well-being. HR leaders should ensure they prioritize transparency around how the organization collects, uses and stores employee data, and allow employees to opt out of practices they find objectionable.

 8). Concerns around AI bias will lead to more transparency in recruiting tech.

As more organizations leverage AI in recruiting, the ethical implications of these practices have become more urgent. In 2023, Morgan and Kimberly expect this issue to come to a head, particularly as governments begin scrutinizing the use of AI in hiring.

For example, a new law in New York City went into effect on January 1 that limits employers’ use of AI recruiting tools and requires organizations to undergo annual bias audits and publicly disclose their hiring metrics.

Organizations that use AI and machine learning in their hiring processes, as well as the vendors they rely on for these services, will face pressure to get ahead of new regulations. This includes being more transparent about how they are using AI, publicizing their audit data, and giving employees and candidates the choice to opt out from AI-led processes.

 9). Organizations must address workforce-wide erosion of social skills.

Many new-to-the-workforce employees are struggling: 51% of Gen Z employees say that their education has not prepared them to enter the workforce. And the pandemic means that these employees have had few in-person opportunities to observe norms and determine what is appropriate or effective within their organizations.

Rekroot’s analysis has made clear that, in fact, it’s not just Gen Z — everyone’s social skills have eroded since 2020. Burnout, exhaustion, and career insecurity erode performance. No one, from any generation, has cracked the code for navigating our new shared professional environment. Focusing exclusively on Gen Z will not adequately address this challenge; organizations must redefine professionalism for their entire workforce.

Rather than forcing employees back to in-person work to establish connections, leaders need to build intentional connections among employees across geographic — and generational — boundaries. Gartner research shows that to successfully create intentional interactions among employees, employers should focus on three elements: employee choice and autonomy, a clear structure and purpose, and a sense of levity and fun.

Proactive vs. Reactive Recruitment

Morgan and Kimberly explained that proactive recruitment is all about anticipation. It involves anticipating the staffing needs of a business and seeking out candidates before staffing levels become problematic. 

Reactive recruitment is all about the here and now, meaning that a company ”reacts” to the loss of an employee by launching a job hunt once a position has been vacated. Reactive recruitment fills an immediate need for employees, rather than anticipating needs going forward.

Reactive recruitment often results in existing employees picking up the slack and covering these shifts until the manager can quickly find a new worker. This can take weeks or sometimes months of reading applications, conducting interviews and training to get a new employee up to speed.

Many companies have moved away from this type of strategy because it puts a lot of pressure on a company to find a worker – sometimes not even an ideal candidate – as quickly as possible. The company, in effect, has gone into panic mode.

Consideration: Look at your employees and figure out how they got into their current job role. Was it a referral? LinkedIn? Glassdoor? That is the recruiting source you should be investing in.

Do you have a recruiting checklist?

Going through a checklist prior to making a hire is a critical component of recruiting. Your checklist should include:

  • Creating a complete organizational chart with roles, responsibilities, and more.
  • A clear understanding of the responsibilities and expectations of the open position.
  • Researching the average salary for the open position.
  • Company expectations for work environment – hybrid, virtual, etc.
  • A defined selection process.
  • And more.

Click here to view Rekroot’s checklist.

Choose DuPage provides industry-sector reports that include relevant workforce information including average salaries. To request a report, click here.  

For more information about DuPage County’s workforce ecosystem, and the resources available for employers, click here.

“The executives who ignited the transformations from good to great did not first figure out where to drive the bus and then get people to take it there. No, they first got the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and then figured out where to drive it.”

Jim Collins (Good to Great)

About Rekroot

Rekroot is your recruiting partner, offering extensive consulting and coaching or providing you with a steady stream of qualified candidates so that you make the best and strongest hiring selections for your growing financial services business.