A Snapshot of DuPage County: History, Key Facts & More

dupage county

It’s hard to put a label on DuPage County.

Much like neighboring Chicago, the 182-year history of DuPage has been defined by transformation—from a loose constellation of mills and trading posts to an epicenter of global commerce; from a leader of the dot-com boom to a diverse ecosystem of innovative businesses hailing from a variety of industries.

DuPage is defined not only by what we are or where we’ve been, but where we’re going next.

We’re also defined by what we’ve created, both within and far beyond our borders. While each of the tectonic shifts in the DuPage economy was influenced by factors beyond county lines, the people and businesses within DuPage have, in turn, made an impact on communities across the globe—pushing scientific knowledge beyond its fenceposts, building international cargo channels, even bringing a pop of color to gardens the world over. As much as the world has changed DuPage, DuPage has changed the world.

And so, it’s only keeping with tradition that DuPage, a community shaped by diversity and defined by transformation, is once again changing.

New neighbors. New businesses.

Start-ups. Collaborations. Bold new ways to think about economic development.

As we enter this new chapter of change, let’s pause – just for a moment – and take a quick snapshot of where we are today: the makeup of our economy, the workforce opportunities and business opportunities, and the history that brought us here.

Whether you represent a company looking to do business in DuPage or a family putting down roots, this is a good place to start your journey.

A Quick History of DuPage

The best way to tell the story of DuPage – or any place – is through its people.

Before DuPage was DuPage, its tallgrass prairies were occupied for at least 9,000 years by numerous Native American tribes—including, as recently as the 1800s, the Potawatomi, who had villages in what is now Naperville, Oak Brook, Glen Ellyn and the Morton Arboretum in Lisle.

In 1839, as white settlers pushed west, DuPage County was founded. (The county was named after the DuPage River, which, the story goes, got its name from a French fur trader, Du Page.)

Thus began a new chapter in DuPage history: a series of transformations, each one punctuated by new technologies and powered by a fresh wave of immigrants. The coming decades saw an influx of Irish workers who helped dig the Illinois and Michigan Canal; the northern migration of black families leaving the Jim Crow South; countless scientists and doctors, primarily from Asia and the Middle East, recruited to meet rising demand amidst the post-WWII technological boom.

(For a story that captures the struggles and successes of one DuPage immigrant, read our post about Abdel Raouf Elganzouri, who travelled some 6,400 miles in pursuit of his dreams.)

Today, a mix of cultures continue to define the story of DuPage, as local businesses draw international talent and foreign-owned companies invest heavily in the region. In Wood Dale, for example, Japanese-owned logistics business Nippon Express employs hundreds of local workers.

DuPage: Key Facts

Now that we’ve walked through DuPage’s history, let’s run through the facts that everyone should know about DuPage today…

Location: Located about 20 miles west of Chicago, DuPage is located at an international cargo gateway and transportation crossroads. Home to three international airports – O’Hare, Midway, DuPage – as well as major waterways, interstates and railroads, businesses within DuPage can reach two-thirds of the world’s population within four hours.

The region’s natural and human-made infrastructure is one reason why DuPage is a top choice for transportation and logistics companies. (To learn more about the region’s transportation infrastructure and its impact in the early days of the pandemic, read our Import Logistics feature.)

Scope: DuPage consists of 39 municipalities, home to 932,000 residents and nearly 90,000 businesses.

Talent Pool: With the highest educational attainment in Illinois, one in four DuPage residents have a graduate degree. The region is home to both highly educated talent and a large pool of skilled workers.

Quality of Life: For families, workers and employers alike, one of DuPage County’s key selling points is that it’s simply a great place to live. While the area has long been known for its outdoor recreation, neighborhoods and schools – the area is home to 19 accredited colleges and universities, as well as top-ranked public and private schools – in recent years, the DuPage arts and culture scene has flourished, with new festivals, galleries, world-class dining and more.

Business Opportunities: Although no industry represents more than 10% of DuPage’s overall GDP – an indicator of a diverse business climate – some of the top local sectors include:

  • Advanced Manufacturing
  • Food Processing & Distribution
  • Healthcare
  • Professional Services
  • Transportation, Logistics and Warehousing

Another hot industry in the DuPage area is data centers. In fact, a recent report ranked the Chicagoland area (which includes DuPage) as the second-best data center market in the world, outranking the likes of Dallas-Fort Worth and even Silicon Valley. The high ranking is due to DuPage’s many advantages for data center companies, such as access to clean and renewable energy and an extensive fiber network, as well as state and local tax incentives.

DuPage County Real Estate: From industrial developments to a wide range of suburban office spaces, there are numerous business sites for companies looking to open a new headquarters, satellite office or retail space in DuPage.

Currently, one of the hottest mixed-use sites is the DuPage Business Center in West Chicago, a 640-acre park that offers space for data centers, manufacturing, R&D, medical facilities, office space, and more.

Meanwhile, One Pierce and 500 Park at Hamilton Lakes offer a dynamic variety of office spaces in Itasca, conveniently located at the intersection of I-190 and IL Route 390.

To get inspired and see how other businesses have made the region home, take a look at 2021’s Smartest, Sleekest & Healthiest Workplaces in DuPage.

Thank you for reading! Want to learn more about living, working and doing business in DuPage? This is a good place to start.