DuPage County to Host Inaugural Community Arts Festival

DuPage Community Arts Festival

DuPage County will host its inaugural DuPage Community Arts Festival to highlight the importance of arts in our community.

The event will take place from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on May 28 at the north grounds of DuPage County Fairgrounds, 2015 Manchester Road, Wheaton. There will be three stages providing musical acts, along with food trucks and a beer tent providing refreshments. Local community artists will be showcasing and selling their work throughout the festival.

Groups scheduled to perform during the DuPage Community Arts Festival include the headline act, Ides of March, and others including the Orbert Davis Quintet, Muriel Anderson, Ralph Covert and Ralph’s World, Son Monarcas, the DuPage Symphony Ensembles, the Chicago Jazz Academy, Vital Signs, the Road Show Inc. Show Choir, Elmhurst Symphony Chamber groups, and many more, including a visual performance by artist Lewis Achenbach.

DuPage County formed an Ad Hoc Fine Arts Committee to develop the festival as an opportunity to support local artists, many of whom have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This event will highlight the importance of the arts and the pivotal role they play in driving economic development. A thriving arts community means a thriving DuPage County,” said Lynn LaPlante, Chairwoman of the Ad Hoc Fine Arts Committee. “This brand-new initiative gives these talented artists a platform to promote the amazing work they’re doing. It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to come together and celebrate as a community after a very difficult two years.”

Presale tickets for the DuPage Community Arts Festival are currently available and cost $20 for adults, $10 for children ages 3 to 12, and free for children under the age of 3. A family pass will be available for $50. Tickets bought at the gate will cost $25 for adults, $12 for children ages 3 to 12, and free for children under the age of 3. A family pass bought at the gate will cost $60.

Funds raised through the festival will be used to support future arts-related efforts. To purchase tickets, or for more information, please visit the DuPage County Fair Association website at https://dupagecountyfair.org.

 

ComEd Reaches Highest Levels of Reliability as Severe Weather Events Challenge Power Grids

Investments have helped prevent more than 17 million customer outages since 2011 

 ComEd in 2021 delivered some of its highest levels of year-over-year reliability as a result of power grid investments such as smart switches that reroute power around potential problem areas, new storm hardening and vegetation management solutions, and cable replacement. Since grid improvements began in 2011, overall reliability has improved 68 percent. ComEd has avoided more than 17 million outages for customers, saving more than $3 billion in outage costs. 

Utilities must continue to invest in the power grid to address severe weather and rapid increases in renewable energy and electric vehicles. ComEd has proven itself as a national leader in the use of advanced technologies to benefit its customers and communities and ensure the region remains competitive. 

“To meet the needs of our customers, ComEd continues to modernize the grid to deliver the reliable power that our customers and communities need to live, work and succeed in a 21st century economy,” said Terence Donnelly, president and chief operating officer of ComEd. “In the face of increasing and more intense weather events, our investments have enabled ComEd to reach new heights of reliability while laying the foundation for future technologies that expand renewables and support Illinois customers and communities as we transition to a clean energy economy.” 

Grid investments have provided customers reliable power but have also paved the way for ComEd customers to realize the full potential of digital grid technology, providing access to more clean energy options like solar, wind and more. At the same time, ComEd’s rates today are among the most competitive in the nation: Average residential rates are 17 percent lower than the 10 top U.S. metro areas, and average commercial rates are 18 percent lower than the top 20 U.S. metro areas. As a percentage of residents’ median income, ComEd’s residential electricity cost is nearly the lowest in the country. 

“Investments we’re making in the grid are already helping us reduce the number and duration of customer interruptions,” said Donnelly. “As we invest in technology that brings more renewable energy to the grid, we can both reduce emissions while improving the resiliency of the system.” 

In August 2021, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report that outlined the widespread, rapid and intensifying impacts of the climate crisis due to fossil-fuel emissions. The report called out the need for the electric grid to be more resilient because it is often the last line of defense for residents and businesses.

In addition to producing strong power reliability, Illinois’ competitive electricity supply market helped to attract significant business expansion across ComEd’s northern Illinois service territory. In 2021 alone, ComEd’s Economic Development Team helped support the launch of 16 new industrial projects representing 548 MW of new committed capacity-enough to power 155,000 homes. These new projects will collectively support 4,700 new jobs and $3 billion in investment for the region. 

“Reliable and clean energy are great assets to Illinois and top priorities for companies making location decisions,” said Intersect Illinois CEO Dan Seals. “ComEd’s investment in infrastructure is key to bringing business to the state.” 

Comcast Rise Applications Now Open to All Women-Owned Small Businesses

Comcast Rise
 In its first year alone, Comcast RISE has provided over $60 million in grants, marketing and technology services to support more than 6,700 small businesses owned by people of color in Comcast’s national footprint – including nearly 550 in the company’s Greater Chicago Region. 

Comcast announced recently that its Comcast RISE program is open to all women-owned businesses in its Greater Chicago Region, which includes Illinois, Northern Indiana and Southwest Michigan. The expansion of Comcast RISE to women-owned businesses furthers the company’s efforts to advance digital equity and help provide underrepresented small business owners with access to the digital tools and funding they need to thrive. 

In its first year alone, Comcast RISE has provided more than $60 million in grants, marketing and technology services to more than 6,700 small businesses owned by people of color – including Black, Indigenous, Hispanic and Asian Americans – in Comcast’s national footprint, including nearly 550 in the company’s Greater Chicago Region. Of the 6,700 Comcast RISE recipients to date, nearly 70% have been businesses owned by women of color, spurring Comcast to take a deeper look into the unique challenges faced by women entrepreneurs. 

According to a study by the National Association of Women Business Owners, 42% of businesses in the U.S. are owned by women – and that women start more than 1,800 new businesses each day. That’s nearly five times the national average. However, according to the same study, women-owned businesses tend to grow at only half the rate of those run by men, namely because women struggle to access capital and other resources to help them succeed. 

Karen Cahn, Founder & CEO of IFundWomen, echoed this important point, “The data about how women, a rapidly increasing number of whom are small business owners, have fared during the pandemic is stark. Women business owners tend to have limited access to capital and debt-free funding options, yet they represent a tremendous opportunity. Women-owned businesses deliver two times higher revenue per dollar invested than those founded by men, making them great investments.” 

“As we continue to rebuild and emerge from the effects of the pandemic, small businesses will continue to be the backbone of our economy – and we must take every opportunity to help them thrive,” said Teresa Ward-Maupin, Senior Vice President, Digital and Customer Experience, Comcast Business. “Looking forward, this expansion will enable Comcast RISE to further empower and strengthen even more small businesses that are the heart of our local communities across the country.” 

Comcast RISE, which stands for Representation, Investment, Strength and Empowerment, is part of Project UP, Comcast’s comprehensive initiative to advance digital equity and help provide underrepresented small business owners with access to the digital tools and funding they need to thrive. Over the next 10 years, Comcast has committed $1 billion to programs, like Comcast RISE, and partnerships that will reach an estimated 50 million people with the skills, opportunities and resources they need to succeed in an increasingly digital world.

Comcast RISE, which recently celebrated its one-year anniversary, is open to racially and ethnically diverse small business owners and all women-owned businesses. More information and the application to apply for marketing and technology services are available at www.ComcastRISE.com. 

 

Tax incentives, other advantages make DuPage a ‘Goldilocks zone’ for data centers

When selecting sites for new data centers – facilities that house the computer servers responsible for powering today’s digital networks – companies must search for a ‘Goldilocks zone’ of conditions.

From affordable, reliable energy to a workforce that can keep the equipment running, everything has to be just right.

Now, a recent report ranks the Chicagoland region (including DuPage County) as the world’s second-best market for data centers, just behind Northern Virginia and ahead of the likes of Silicon Valley and Dallas-Fort Worth. Over the past several years, the region has leveraged its existing strategic advantages with new state sales tax incentives to create optimal conditions for data centers, and the world is taking notice.

It’s a data world—we’re just living in it.

Unless you’re in the industry, chances are good that you’ve never actually been inside a data center—most of us haven’t. At the same time, the servers housed in these facilities impact nearly every aspect of our lives.

From the Netflix series we binge on Friday nights to the files we download from our employers’ servers on Monday morning, much of the data we rely on every day is processed and stored within data centers, along with more sensitive information such as proprietary corporate data, financial assets, government files, and medical information. Virtually every modern business and government office relies on vast quantities of data. Data centers house this information, allowing clients to access it quickly and securely.

And data usage is only growing. As we integrate new technologies within our society – more advanced AI, Internet of Things (IoT) devices and 5G service, not to mention Facebook’s recently announced ‘multiverse’ project – we are building a world that is increasingly reliant on data.

Which is to say, a world that is increasingly reliant on data centers.

Today, companies cannot build data centers fast enough. Often, these businesses have clients lined up to use their services before they even break ground. At the same time, data centers are complex investments that require high volumes of capital; the majority of projects cost more than $250 million. With that much money at stake, as well as their client’s trust and security, companies are understandably picky when it comes to where they invest in new data centers.

locations for data centers

What makes DuPage a top choice?

As the demand for real-time data transmission reaches an all-time high, the DuPage region has emerged as a prime location for data centers. A recent report from Cushman & Wakefield names the Chicagoland region (including DuPage) as the second-best market for data centers globally. That ranking comes as, over the past five years, DuPage has seen a 3.4% growth in data centers, with more projects in the works.

What makes the DuPage region a leading choice for data centers boils down to a mix of strategic advantages, including:

  • State and local tax incentives. Due to 2019 legislation, qualifying Illinois data centers are exempt from paying state and local taxes on equipment over a 10-year period, making the state a major draw for the sector. The same legislation provides a tax credit of 20% of wages paid to construction workers for projects located in underserved areas, spurring economic growth within these communities.

    Experts say that these tax incentives – which make Chicago one of the most affordable national markets for data centers – will cause an uptick in leasing activity, as major cloud companies invest in the area. Illinois is also one of a few states that does not assess a personal property tax, another financial advantage.

    While this incentive draws companies to the Chicagoland region, DuPage has the additional advantage of low property and sales taxes.
  • Access to affordable, reliable and renewable energy. “Every business relies on energy, but for data centers it’s mission critical,” said Ed Sitar, Manager of Economic and Business Development at ComEd, which provides electric power to the Chicagoland region.

    To host and protect their clients’ assets, data centers depend on having access to energy at all times. And since these businesses require large volumes of energy, they need that power to be not only reliable, but affordable and clean.

    ComEd, which is ranked among the top 10% of energy companies in the nation for performance reliability, provides highly reliable energy for customers at a rate that is among the most competitive in the U.S.

    In addition, Illinois has the sixth-lowest electricity-generated carbon emissions in the country. Businesses here can obtain 100% renewable energy options through the competitive supply market, helping them reach their sustainability goals.

    Illinois, already the sixth-largest wind energy-producing state, recently passed legislation that sets the state on a path for 100% renewable energy by 2050.
  • “Free cooling.” One of the greatest challenges of operating a data center is keeping servers cool. These devices are running all day, every day, and they tend to overheat. Due to the DuPage region’s northern climate, companies can pump outside cold air into their facility for much of the year, enabling them to cut back on energy usage. This gives the region an advantage over other popular markets in warmer climates.

  • An extensive fiber network. Data centers rely on a robust infrastructure of fiber optics, as well as other utilities. While facilities in other locations, particularly rural areas, often have to build this infrastructure from the ground up, DuPage already has it—enabling tech companies to reduce the time and cost of construction and get their facility running sooner.

  • Access to a massive talent pool. DuPage has a large and diverse talent pool living and working within the community. Many local companies also draw talent from Chicago, which is right next door. An extensive public transportation system makes commuting to and from the city easy.

  • Access to a highly skilled and diverse construction workforce. Building a data center is complicated and labor-intensive, requiring a large local workforce with specialized skills. And, as demand for data services grows exponentially, projects tend to run on a tight timeline.

    As regions across the nation experience labor shortages – particularly in construction – many lack the skilled workforce needed to complete these projects quickly and efficiently.

    DuPage is a different story. The region is home to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 701 and the DuPage JATC, a joint apprenticeship training program between the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and the IBEW. Through this collaboration, professionals are equipped with the latest construction techniques in state-of-the-art training environments. In turn, contractors can draw on this highly skilled labor to build the next generation of data centers.

    “DuPage is fortunate to have a strong union labor-management collaboration including world-class training centers, where contractors have access to building trades persons who learn the latest construction techniques,” said Dan Allen, Executive Director of the Construction Industry Service Corporation (CISCO). “As a result, the data centers are built to precise specifications to house these mission-critical components. The availability of skilled union contractors, the skilled union workforce that they employ, and next generation of electrical workers currently being trained, puts DuPage County in a most favorable position to continue to attract these types of projects for years to come.”

  • A minimal risk of natural disasters. In many regions, floods, hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, and other natural disasters pose a serious threat to data centers – which often contain sensitive, irreplaceable data – a threat that is expected to intensify in the coming decades. A centrally located community in Northeastern Illinois, DuPage offers a safe location with a minimal risk of natural disasters.

  • Desirable amenities. DuPage features a beautiful network of nature parks, a thriving cultural and arts scene, and world-class dining and entertainment, as well as attractive living spaces and nationally ranked schools. These amenities help local companies attract and retain high-caliber talent.

  • A global transportation network. Three nearby international airports – O’Hare, Midway and the DuPage Airport – plus several major highways, make it easy for staff and clients to travel to and from practically anywhere in the world. In addition, DuPage is offering businesses unprecedented access to O’Hare through the Western Access Initiative.

data center tax incentives

How do data centers benefit our communities?

DuPage offers a number of benefits for the owners and operators of data centers, but how do data centers benefit DuPage?

While data centers are often criticized for failing to bring large numbers of permanent jobs to communities, that hasn’t been the case in DuPage—and it likely isn’t the whole story in other communities that are home to these facilities.

The majority of data centers in DuPage employ 25 to 100 full-time workers; in order to receive Illinois’ state and local tax breaks on equipment, centers must employ at least 20 full-time workers and the jobs must pay at least 120% of the given county’s median wage. And studies show that these high-paying jobs often generate many more jobs within the community.

According to a 2018 study by research firm RTI International, data center jobs have a ‘multiplier effect’ on the local workforce: “For every one data center worker, there were five jobs supported elsewhere in the economy by operating expenditures—after the surge in jobs caused by capital expenditures.” (This study was funded by Facebook and focused on its U.S. data center fleet. Its findings were consistent with a different 2018 study funded by Google and focused on European markets.)

In other words, data centers generate long-term job growth within communities, well beyond the construction contracts and other short-term jobs related to the initial investment. According to the RTI report, every $1 million spent on data center operations supports 13 jobs elsewhere in the economy.

Beyond creating jobs, data centers inject millions of dollars into the local economy through taxes—property taxes, but especially water and utility. In a February 2021 Sun-Times article, Lauren Huffman, spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, said the state’s incentive programs have already generated more than 370 jobs and $4.5 billion in private investment. (Read more about the impact of data centers on local economies here.)

“DuPage is good for data centers, and data centers are great for DuPage,” said Ron Lunt, Founding Partner of development company Hamilton Partners.

In early 2021, NTT Ltd., one of the world’s largest information-technology companies, opened their U.S. Data Center Campus at Hamilton Partner’s Hamilton Lakes Business Park. Located in Itasca at the intersection of the new Elgin O’Hare Expressway (I-390) and I-355, the park is a 15-minute drive from Chicago’s International Airport. In addition to office space, the campus features the Westin Hotel, the Hamilton Lakes Athletic Club, a daycare center, nature paths, and various restaurants.

“They employ our people, they fund public projects, they invigorate our local economy, and, importantly, they help us continue to attract further investment. DuPage is emerging as a global hub for innovative companies and talented people, and data centers play a key role.

“These are forward-thinking companies—they’re always looking to the near- and long-term future. And when they look at DuPage, they see an environment that has everything they need to build this future.”

data centers chicago

ABOUT DUPAGE COUNTY, ILLINOIS

Just west of Chicago, DuPage County is a diverse, innovative community offering a strategic location, a collaborative environment, a diverse culture, beautiful parks and trails, a vibrant arts scene, excellent schools, responsible local governance, and world-class workplaces.

Want to learn more? Take a look at our list of The Top DuPage Workplaces of 2021, dive into the history of the I-88 Corridor, or learn how global industry leader Ball Horticultural is literally coloring our world from DuPage County.

ComEd Receives National Recognition for Successful Programs that Prepare Chicago-Area Residents for Good-Paying Jobs

ComEd

 CHICAGO (Nov. 22, 2021) – In recognition of ComEd’s successful job training and job placement programs that serve minority communities and advance equity, the Center for Energy Workforce Development (CEWD) honored ComEd with the Community Partner Award as part of its 2021 Impact Awards for Workforce Development Excellence. 

“Our comprehensive workforce development efforts lift up the communities we’re privileged to serve, and we’re honored to receive national recognition of our successful job training and job placement programs,” said Diana Sharpe, vice president of economic and workforce development at ComEd. “This success is a shared success, as our programs have thrived because they are powered by local community partnerships.” 

CEWD presented ComEd with its Community Partner Award based on the strength of two of its programs: the CONSTRUCT Infrastructure Academy and its partnership with the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) program Chicago Builds. 

ComEd’s CONSTRUCT Infrastructure Academy prepares local, diverse job seekers for entry-level roles in the utility and construction sectors. Since 2013, more than 600 students have completed the Academy with 70 percent of them securing employment shortly after graduating. Most of them are women, African Americans and Latinos who historically have faced barriers to entering these industries. 

Through the ComEd Infrastructure Academy, ComEd works with 10 non-profit training affiliates and more than 40 corporate partners to recruit, train and hire candidates. Program graduates are better prepared to enter related fields with the knowledge and training that qualify them for entry-level jobs with good-paying, livable wages. 

Chicago Builds is a vocational trades program for CPS juniors and seniors that began in the 2020-2021 academic year. This two-year CPS program provides technical training skills in a variety of fields, including energy. ComEd partners with CPS to provide career exploration sessions and hands-on activities. 

For more information or questions about the CONSTRUCT program, contact WorkforceDevelopment@ComEd.com.

Exelon Announces $36M Equity Fund to Support Minority-Owned Business Growth

 Racial Equity Capital Fund will provide needed capital to help minority-owned businesses create jobs and expand in communities served by Exelon’s utilities 

 Exelon’s utilities business, which owns six electric and gas utilities serving more than 10 million customers, announced today it has created a $36 million fund to support minority-owned businesses in the communities it serves. The launch of the Racial Equity Capital Fund will help minority businesses obtain capital to fuel growth and spur job opportunities in underserved and under-resourced communities often overlooked by investors and traditional funding sources. The capital fund is expected to invest in numerous businesses throughout Exelon’s service areas over the next three years with estimated loan amounts between $100,000 and $300,000 and equity investments of nearly $1 million.

The investment will be funded by Exelon’s utilities business, in partnership with the Exelon Foundation, and managed by RockCreek, a diverse-owned global investment firm, which has invested more than $7.4 billion in diverse firms since its inception. RockCreek will decide which businesses get financing, independent of other parties. The fund will be available as a resource to minority businesses, which have historically been denied bank funding in disproportionate numbers and often lack the initial equity and capital to grow and sustain their small businesses. 

“RockCreek is excited to join with Exelon’s utilities business to invest the Racial Equity Capital Fund, which will bring much-needed capital to minority businesses to help them grow, create jobs, and strengthen communities in the years and decades to come,” said Afsaneh Beschloss, founder and CEO of RockCreek.

“Too often, we see small, minority-owned businesses struggle to obtain financial backing to fuel their ideas and innovations, and that problem has only grown worse during the pandemic,” said Calvin Butler, CEO of Exelon Utilities. “Yet these same entrepreneurs are often the greatest source of economic opportunity in their communities, especially in underserved and under-resourced areas that struggle to attract major service providers, retailers and other community-sustaining employers. With this fund, we can help minority job creators overcome barriers to their growth and success and ensure that the benefits of our post-pandemic economic recovery are shared more equitably.” 

The initiative is part of Exelon’s ongoing, extensive efforts to promote equity, inclusion and economic opportunity in the diverse communities served by our six utilities, which include Atlantic City Electric, BGE, ComEd, Delmarva Power, PECO and Pepco. In addition to the investment fund, Exelon has: 

  • Spent $2.7 billion with diversity-certified suppliers in 2020 alone, growing its total spend with diversity-certified suppliers more than 41 percent from 2016-2020. ($2.4 billion from Exelon Utilities.) 
  • Launched the Community Empowerment Initiative to issue $150,000 in grants to Black-owned businesses associated with the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) in Exelon Utilities service areas. The grants will fund the design and implementation of capacity-building programs to grow minority-owned businesses in Exelon’s footprint. 
  • Initiated more than 100 workforce development programs across its six utilities and generation business, including Infrastructure Academies that create pathways into utility careers through training programs offered in partnership with other entities. To date, more than 400 program graduates have been hired internally and externally. 
  • Established a Racial Equity Task Force designed to eliminate barriers and create opportunities for Exelon employees, vendors, customers and communities. 
  • Donated more than $180 million (more than 75 percent of the company’s giving) to organizations with a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion efforts over the past five years. 

“Diversity, equity and inclusion are core values at Exelon,” Butler said. “And it’s hugely important in the communities we serve – where the change that comes from economic opportunity can’t wait another day. The Racial Equity Capital Fund is one more way we’re making good on our responsibility to help those communities become stronger and more resilient.” 

Ransomware: Are you prepared? A discussion on cyber security.

Breakfast with the Chairman

DuPage County business leaders gathered on Wednesday, October 27 for an intimate, roundtable session focusing on cyber security, ransomware, and what businesses can do to protect themselves. The event was moderated by Glenn Mazade, Senior Vice President of First Midwest Bank. Glenn led a discussion with experts in the field, Chris Perreira, Vice President of Information Security Operations at First Midwest Bank and Mike Del Giudice, CISSP, CRISC, Principal, Consulting at Crowe LLP. The event took place at Innovation DuPage.

To begin, Chris and Mike explained that ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts a user or organization’s files, databases, and applications so they cannot access them until a ransom is paid. “It’s a billion-dollar industry, and it’s not going away. It’s maturing and innovating.” said Mike.

Once a hacker breaches an organization’s network they can sell that access on the dark web, which is a part of the internet that requires special software to access, allowing users to remain anonymous and untraceable.

Alternatively, hackers will often lay in wait after breaching a system, gaining a stronger foothold and looking for other vulnerabilities, until they can effectively carry out their hack and ensure that you pay.

A recent example of how malicious hackers can breach a company’s network is the attack on candy-maker Ferrara Candy Co, which disrupted operations just before Halloween.

Often, business owners may think they are too small to be breached, but according to Chris, it’s a crime of opportunity. “It’s not who, it’s what – they are after money. Malicious hackers will cast a huge net – maybe sending 100,000 emails containing malware links. And they are just looking for one person to click,” he said.

How can organizations protect themselves?

Both experts agreed that organizations need to build a resilient environment, and approach cyber security from multiple angles. This includes training and engaging your staff with best practices such as password controls and multi-factor authentication. Furthermore, organizations can engage third-party vendors for monitoring and detection.

And while cyber security insurance is available, it can be difficult to obtain. Insurance companies are paying out for cyber-attacks and therefore raising the bar for what it takes to get that insurance.

The following offers businesses guidance on conversations they should be having with IT departments and vendors.

  • Are we segmenting networks? Doing this lowers the likelihood that ransomware could impact multiple lines of business or applications. 
  • Do we have an information security awareness program? Training prepares staff to deal with the threat of phishing – and phishing is how most ransoms start.
  • Does our backup strategy match our recovery objectives? Are the backups air-gapped/offline? Have we ever attempted to recover the business from these backups? 
  • When will we have multi-factor authentication enabled for our systems? It’s gotten much easier to enforce MFA for logins – especially in the cloud system.
  • Have we replaced or augmented our anti-virus with Endpoint Detection and Response Software? EDR is more capable than traditional anti-virus – but it is not a silver bullet and it’s expensive.
  • Do we have a vulnerability management program in place? Patching alone is not enough. End of Life software MUST be replaced (Win7, Server 2012). Know your external presence because it’s the most vulnerable. 

Additionally, businesses should ask themselves: 

  • Are we spending enough on Information Security? This should be separate from the IT budget – these are two difference disciplines. 
  • Do we really understand our reliance on systems? What is the impact of them being down for a day? A week? 
  • Do we understand our dependences on third-parties? What happens when a critical third-party is hit with ransomware? Does a problem at their business create a problem at ours? 
  • Do we have cyber insurance? If not, why? If yes, does it cover ransomware? Are we compliant with the terms? 
  • If we are hit with ransomware, will we pay? Understand the impact of your answer. Do we have a plan in place to pay? What is the impact if we choose NOT to pay? 

What should you do in the event of a cyber-attack?

If you’ve become victim of a cyber-attack, contact your IT department or vendor immediately. If you have cyber security insurance, call your insurance company. And if money is involved, call the FBI.

Additional Resource

Ransomware Guide, published by Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency and the Multi-State Information Sharing & Analysis Center

 

How Ball Horticultural is ‘Coloring the World’ from DuPage County

Ball Horticultural

With a presence in 21 countries and six continents, DuPage County-based company Ball Horticultural literally colors the world with beautiful ornamental plants. And it all starts in DuPage.

In this post, we take a look at how Ball’s products and business model have evolved over more than 116 years; how their culture and values have sustained their growth; and how their current leadership and investment in DuPage County – including their new Ball Helix Innovation Center in West Chicago – are shaping the future of ornamental plants.

Watch the interview with their leadership team and read their story, below.


In a garden, relationships are everything. Plants depend on pollinators; pollinators depend on plants. The world of fungi, worms and microorganisms below the surface couldn’t survive without the world above; and the world above wouldn’t exist without the one below. To be a gardener is to cultivate these relationships, to nurture, encourage and protect an ecosystem, the boundaries of which can be hard to define.

Gardens at Ball Horticultural Headquarters

But as much as we gardeners like to think that our gardens depend on us, the dependency runs both ways. We grow plants. And, in many ways, plants grow us.

“Plants do more than beautify,” said Monique Hakkert, Director of Human Resources at Ball Horticultural Company. Headquartered in West Chicago, Ball is the global leader in ornamental horticulture: the design, production and distribution of flowers, grasses, vegetables, ground covers and other plants.

As Monique points out, the act of gardening, of engaging with nature and working with our hands, of creating and being responsible for something beautiful and alive, can benefit our mental health in profound ways, helping us heal psychological wounds—a trait that is particularly valuable in the second year of a global pandemic.

And it’s not only gardeners who benefit. Simply being in the presence of plants can impact one’s mindset. Plants can even prevent crime.

“It’s proven that, if you plant your city well and take care of it, you can actually reduce crime numbers.”

“Flowers are universal in the way that smiles are universal,” said Jim Kennedy, U.S. Sales Director. “It translates into every language. Handing someone flowers, or having flowers on your street or your patio or in your garden, there’s a universal nature in that.”

Gardens at Ball Horticultural

If one company is responsible for the proliferation of ornamental plants across the world – and within our own gardens – that company is Ball Horticultural. For more than a hundred years, Ball, a fourth-generation family business, has designed plants of every color and form imaginable, distributing their seeds (tens of millions annually) to countless growers across 90 countries and six continents. The growers, in turn, grow the seeds into maturity and distribute their products to countless nurseries and garden centers, which sell Ball’s products to you and me.

The global horticulture industry is a complex ecosystem, but Ball is the driving force behind it. (In the garden metaphor, Ball is the wind, scattering the seeds far and wide.) However, for Monique and many of the company’s employees, Ball’s role in this global ecosystem goes beyond ‘just’ providing millions upon millions of plants. Through their work, Ball supports family businesses, nurtures communities, and provides a product that is essential to the wellness of humans and the world at large, a world that is entangled with every aspect of our lives.

“We not only beautify the world. We have a bigger purpose.”

Ball Horticultural Office Space

Recently, in pursuit of that purpose, Ball developed a high-tech tool.

Planted at the center of Ball’s West Chicago headquarters, the Ball Helix Innovation Center is home to some of the industry’s most advanced laboratories. Here, a team of world-class researchers have the technology and space they need to develop new products, study and fight plant diseases, and quietly revolutionize our flower beds.

This work is supported by the facility’s design. Like a good garden, the space promotes the cross-pollination of ideas. Open spaces and glass walls allow light to filter through, while wide hallways and common areas encourage people from different groups and departments to mingle.

In the past, says Dr. Matthew Mouw, Chief Technology Officer, the research and development side of Ball was somewhat siloed from the rest of the company. Now, due to the inclusive design of the Innovation Center, new collaborations are springing up, and the lines between science, business and marketing are blurring. Ball is beginning to feel less like a traditional company – with departments and other artificial divides – and more like an ecosystem.

“We designed this space so that our people can intermingle and interact very effectively,” Matt said. “We have a diverse group here – some fresh out of grad school, PhDs, technicians; some younger, some older – each bringing different ways of thinking, different specialties and experiences across scientific disciplines.

“The one thing that links us all together is our passion for the industry and the products we make. And, of course, our love of plants.”

The work conducted in these laboratories can feel abstract; peering at a plant cell through the lens of a high-powered microscope is a far cry from tending a garden. But, in a way, Ball’s researchers are tending a garden—in fact, their work is impacting millions of gardens across the world. Here, once again, the design of the Innovation Center peels away the divide between concept and reality. The lab’s glass walls and expansive windows allow researchers to look up from their microscopes and see the gardens that line the building, where Ball’s latest products are planted. They can literally see their efforts in bloom.  

Ball Helix Innovation Center

Some ecosystems are the result of careful planning and deliberate action. But often, they begin with a chance moment—a seed that rode a gust of wind and happened to land in the right soil in the right climate at precisely the right time.

Looking at the elaborate ecosystem that is Ball Horticultural today, it can be hard to imagine that all of this started when a fourteen-year-old boy ran away from home.

“My grandfather was an unusual guy,” said Anna Ball, the current CEO and Third-Generation owner of Ball.

After the young George J. Ball fled home, he began working for cut-flower growers, where he learned the ins and outs of the horticulture trade. In 1898, he served in the Spanish-American War, traveling to Cuba and the Philippines, where he kept a daily journal. (He maintained it, in various cloth- and leather-bound notebooks, for the next 50 years.) When he returned to the States, George opened his own greenhouse in Glen Ellyn. He eventually ran out of room, so he picked up his operation and moved to West Chicago, where the seed of a business grew into a sprawling enterprise.

Innovation was always at the core of Ball’s business model. As George developed his own strains of flowers, selecting for varieties that were disease-resistant and easier to grow, his business began expanding, sprouting into new markets overseas. The company remained in the family ever since; Anna’s father expanded Ball’s reach internationally, while Anna herself, at a dynamic moment for the company, shifted Ball’s focus away from vegetables and toward ornamental flowers. Anna’s daughter, Susannah, is the Fourth-Generation Owner. Today, Ball is among the last family-owned horticultural businesses of its scale—and the only one remaining in the United States.

“In recent years, the horticultural industry has been undergoing a lot of consolidations and acquisitions,” Susannah said, “so we’re one of the last family-owned horticultural businesses in the world. That’s something that really sets us apart.”

“We have a people-oriented culture, and I think that’s at least in part because we’re a family-owned business,” Anna said.

“A lot of our customers are family businesses, too,” said Jim. “We have our families here at Ball, and we serve families as our customer base, too. Our families drive success for their families, for their teams, and for their communities.”

Although George died in 1949 – at the time, he was en route to Japan, his pockets filled with seeds – his legacy lives on, particularly in the design of the West Chicago headquarters’ newest building.

Anna says that one of George’s core values was transparency. He believed that knowledge, like plants, was a gift made to be shared, and he lived this value by sharing his vast compendium of expertise through his books and magazines. Today, that transparency is embodied in the Ball Helix Innovation Center. Whenever a person looks through the facility’s glass walls and sees the work happening in Ball’s laboratories – a concept that Anna calls ‘Science on Display’ – they are peering through George’s legacy.

Ball Helix Innovation Center

In a garden, relationships are everything. The same is true for a business.

And it’s not only the relationships within the company that count. The relationships that it fosters with the greater community, the people and businesses that both impact the company and are impacted by it, ultimately shape its future.

George could have grown his business anywhere. But it’s hard to imagine Ball becoming the global leader that it is today without its DuPage roots. For one, DuPage County is located at an international cargo gateway, the epicenter of a transportation network that includes air, rail, highways and water transport, allowing businesses within the area to move goods to anywhere in North America or across the globe quickly, efficiently and reliably.

There’s also the talent pool. Ball’s industry-leading innovations are only possible because the company manages to recruit some of the industry’s best talent, many of whom live and work within the DuPage region.

“Chicagoland offers a talent pool that’s essentially infinite,” said Todd Billings, Ball’s Director of New Business Development. “Ball’s work requires a broad range of disciplines, and Chicagoland is able to fill them all.

“We are so close to Chicago that we can benefit from all the city has to offer. But in DuPage, we also have the quality of life: a lot of open space and trails, arts and entertainment. We really have the best of both worlds.”

Having a large talent pool helps – and a high-tech facility like the Helix Center is bound to be a recruiting magnet – but Ball’s greatest strength is in keeping its people. The average employee works at Ball for 12.5 years, a number that suggests there is something about the combination of the company’s culture, chemistry, history, people, and the DuPage community at large – the whole ecosystem in which this century-old business is deeply intertwined – that is greater than the sum of its parts.

“We build long-lasting relationships with each other,” Monique said. “The camaraderie is really high, and we’re integrated into the communities where we live and work and do business. We’ve built these deep relationships inside and outside the company – with our customers, our industry, everyone – and those relationships build us.

“It all connects.”

Ball Horticultural


DuPage County, Illinois

Want to learn more about DuPage County? Take a look at this inspiring story of a local entrepreneur, dive into the history of the I-88 Corridor, or explore how one DuPage community is diversifying its economy.

Made in DuPage

Made in DuPage

Manufacturing is a major part of our region’s heritage. As the 5th-largest industry in DuPage County, manufacturing employs more than 57,000 people. This October, we are celebrating Manufacturing Month by sharing the stories of the products, flavors, foods, and more that are Made in DuPage

 

Two Brothers Brewing Company

Warrenville | Craft Beer, Coffee

In the last 25 years, Two Brothers Brewing Company has grown from its humble beginnings as a “two-man passion project” into a lifestyle brand that includes award-winning craft beer, three artisan restaurants, specialty-grade coffee, a distribution company, and a line of hand-craft spirits.

Founded by brothers Jim and Jason Ebel in 1996, Two Brothers has locations in Naperville, Aurora, and Warrenville—where they produce their craft beer and coffee. Well-known for high-quality, well-balanced beers that push the boundaries of flavor, Two Brothers is 100% family-owned and staunchly independent.

DuPage Craft Beer

 

Shawn Sargent Designs

Glen Ellyn | Handcrafted Home Decor & Accessories

Based in Glen Ellyn, Shawn Sargent Designs brings colorful characters and vibrant patterns to everyday products. Handcrafted using sustainable materials, the company offers home décor, kitchen goods, paper products, bags, gifts, and accessories.

In the last 7 years, Shawn Sargent Designs has grown from a one-woman operation to a small business with national exposure. They’ve cultivated a community of women, artists, teachers, sewers, and U.S.-based makers that create their best-selling fabric Microwave Bowl Holders which have been featured by Real Simple Magazine, Good Morning America, and more.

Shawn Sargent Designs

 

nVenia

Wood Dale | Packaging Equipment

Located in Wood Dale, nVenia creates next-level packaging equipment integration and innovation. Formed by the consolidation of several Duravant entities, nVenia celebrated the grand opening of their new headquarters earlier this month (October 2021).

nVenia designs and manufactures primary, secondary and end-of-line packaging equipment, featuring the product brands of Arpac, Fischbein, Hamer, and Ohlson. Together, these product brands include shrink wrappers, tunnels and bundlers, tray and case formers, case packers, robotic and conventional palletizers, pallet stretch wrapper systems, open-mouth bag sewing and sealing systems, large format bagging and automation equipment, and weighing and counting operations. nVenia’s expertise includes conceptualizing, designing, manufacturing, installing, integrating, and servicing this equipment.

 

Proto Productions

Addison | Custom Display Cases

This DuPage business brings together designers, artisans, and technicians to craft premium quality display cases that safeguard some of the nation’s most invaluable artifacts. Founded in 1974, Proto Productions moved to Addison in 1990 where each case is custom designed and built to provide barrier-free viewing.

Their work can be seen at the Art Institute of Chicago, Detroit Institute of Arts, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum, and Massachusetts State House, to name a few. Their display cases preserve and exhibit many treasured pieces of history, including the original Oregon State Constitution and Chief Justice John Marshall’s robe.

Proto Productions Addison

 

Show-Off, Inc.

Roselle | Custom Costumes

Custom costume shop Show-Off Inc. helps performers stand out among the competition with their flawless custom fit, professional workmanship, and unique designs. The DuPage company designs and manufactures custom costumes for competitive and performance groups ranging from figure skating dresses to drill team uniforms, ballroom dancewear to pro wrestling wear, and more. Show-Off, Inc. was founded over four decades ago, and has been based in Roselle since 2005.

 

Flavorchem 

Downers Grove | Flavor, Color, and Ingredient Solutions

This DuPage company uses science to make things taste delicious and smell amazing. Founded in 1971 and headquartered in Downers Grove since 1982, Flavorchem creates and manufactures flavor, color and ingredient solutions, including many organic-certified products. Meanwhile, their fragrance division, Orchidia Fragrances, develops inspired creations through the researchers’ knowledge and passion for fragrance. The company’s sweet, savory, sour and spicy creations are produced at manufacturing facilities throughout the world. 

Flavorchem Downers Grove

 

MedGyn

Addison | Medical Products, Devices, and Technologies

This DuPage innovator makes technologies that improve women’s health worldwide, including in remote areas with limited access to healthcare. Headquartered in Addison, MedGyn is present in more than 140 countries, delivering a comprehensive portfolio of OB/GYN products.

MedGyn DuPage

 

Ball Horticultural Company

West Chicago | Ornamental Plant Breeder, Producer, and Wholesale Distributor 

Have a garden? Chances are, your plants are rooted in the work of Ball Horticultural Company, right here in West Chicago, DuPage County. A family-owned business founded in 1905, Ball Horticultural is on a mission to be the world leader in the research, breeding, production and marketing of ornamental crops. Its innovative and award-winning work can be found in gardens across six continents.

<Ball Horticultural Company DuPage County

 

Pioneer Services Inc.

Addison | Precision Parts

This DuPage manufacturer makes custom parts that are used in some of the world’s most important products—including lab equipment where COVID-19 vaccines are being tested, cooling machines used in giant data centers, hydraulic equipment for energy producers, and hundreds more. Headquartered in Addison, Pioneer Service Inc. is a Women-Owned Small Business with 30 years of experience. 

Pioneer Services DuPage County

 

Greenleaf Foods, SPC

Elmhurst | Plant-Based Foods

Some of the North America’s most delicious plant-based protein is made right here in DuPage County! Headquartered in Elmhurst, Greenleaf Foods, SPC, is owner of popular brands Lightlife® and Field Roast, which create nearly 50 plant-based products. Today, the brands have taken a leading market position in the refrigerated, plant-based protein category in the U.S., and they plan to continue enticing new customers who never knew that plant-based protein could taste so good. 

Greenleaf Foods DuPage County

 

Molex

Lisle, Naperville | Connectivity Solutions Provider

This DuPage business is enabling life-saving technologies during COVID-19. Headquartered in Lisle, with a manufacturing facility in Naperville, Molex works with customers in fields like healthcare and data communications to improve lives around the world. Recently, the company collaborated with customers to develop assemblies for thermal camera systems and portable ventilators, technology that’s critical to detecting infections and saving lives. 

Molex DuPage County

 

Fusion OEM

Burr Ridge | Integrated Robot Solutions

This Burr Ridge-based company engineers integrated robot solutions. For decades robotics has been reserved for large manufacturers such as automobile manufacturers, but Fusion’s affordable robotic solutions extended the market to small and medium-sized manufacturing enterprises.

Fusion OEM assembles the machines that produce the air-filled “pillows” that protect Amazon orders, machines that place the plastic “six pack” rings on beer cans, and the Carvey— a unit that small businesses, “makers” and students use to mill untold number of innovative products.

Fusion OEM DuPage County

 

IP Automation 

Downers Grove | Automation and Wire Fabrication Machinery

What do a stove and shopping cart have in common? Hint: The answer does NOT involve food. Still thinking??? Here’s the answer: Both contain BENT WIRES! The wire rack inside your oven is shaped by the same machine that creates your Costco cart. These products are made possible thanks to companies like IP Automation in Downers Grove known for its wireforming machines and automation lines.

IP Automation DuPage County

 

Antunes

Carol Stream | Custom Food Service & Water Treatment Solutions

Family-owned and operated, Antunes is a leading provider of custom countertop cooking equipment and water filtration systems. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Antunes quickly leveraged its in-house design and fabrication capabilities. Stepping into action early, they developed safety and sanitation equipment – countertop shields and hand sanitizer dispenser stands – enabling other businesses to stay open. Read more about them here.

Antunes Carol Stream Facility DuPage County

 

Victor Envelope Company

Bensenville | Commercial Printing

For over 50 years, the Victor Envelope Company has delivered on its brand promise: “Envelopes when you need them.” Residing in a 250,000 square foot, air conditioned, state of the art manufacturing and printing facility in Bensenville, the company produces more than 1 billion envelopes annually!

Its dedicated workforce of Machine Adjusters, Machine Operators, Printers, and Mechanics—just to name a few— blend modern print technology, craftsmanship and engineering to deliver the fastest turnaround times in the industry.

Victor Envelope says it embraces its social responsibility to manufacture a competitive product while minimizing any negative impact on the environment. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company was deemed an essential manufacturer. “We dedicated ourselves to keeping our people safe and healthy during the pandemic,” says Susan Ryan, VP of Human Resources. “COVID-19 generated an increased demand for Ballot Envelopes which we were prepared to manufacture.”

Victor Envelope DuPage County

 

Ferrara

Itasca & Bolingbrook | Sweet Treats

Ferrara, an emerging powerhouse in the North American confections and snacking categories, produces the sweet treats and other delights at its Itasca and Bolingbrook facilities.  

A $3B organization, Ferrara is No. 1 in seasonal confections and No. 2 in sugar confections. The powerhouse company has entered the world’s largest cookies market through the acquisition of a beloved portfolio of cookie brands, a category growing at more than four percent. 

Sustainable growth means Ferrara continues to expand and hiring needs remain constant. Shaping the future of the candy and cookie industry, employees provide quality products to millions of people daily.

For more information visit:  www.ferrarausa.com

 

Packaging Personified

Carol Stream | Flexible Packaging Manufacturer

Apples, carrots, potatoes… Ever wondered about the bags they come in? What about those long black tarps spread across the ground weathering the toughest elements? Meet Packaging Personified. More than a catchy name, this Carol Stream-based manufacturer creates environmentally-friendly storage solutions for frozen foods, produce, landscape, and other markets. Founded in 1975, the company supplies packaging, casings, and wrappings using multiple state-of-the-art methods. Learn more about the company here: https://packagingpersonified.com.

For more stories like this, follow Choose DuPage and workNet DuPage on social media. 

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Moving your business? Take a closer look at DuPage County

Business Relocation

DuPage County, Illinois is one of the fastest-growing regions in the United States. And if you’re searching for business relocation sites or a new business location, this thriving, diverse community should be at the top of your list.

Located just west of Chicago, DuPage County is comprised of 39 municipalities across 336 square miles. The region, which has grown significantly since a surge in the technology sector in the 1980s, is home to nearly one million residents, as well as more than 595,000 jobs and 90,000 businesses.

Although DuPage has its roots in manufacturing, the region’s modern economy is characterized by its diversity. Today, DuPage is a global hotspot for sectors like professional, scientific and technical services; transportation, logistics and warehousing; and healthcare. However, no industry represents more than 10% of the County’s GDP.

What draws businesses to DuPage County? You could say it’s the transportation infrastructure, or the diverse economy, or the low taxes, or the high quality of life. But none of those paints the full picture. In reality, businesses are drawn to DuPage because it offers the right blend of strategic advantages that, when combined, create the conditions where good businesses thrive.

Let’s take a quick look at some of DuPage County’s strategic advantages:

Access to anywhere in the world (or right next door) with a robust transportation network

business opportunities

When searching for a new business site, we recommend starting by researching a location’s access to a transportation infrastructure. Whether your business needs to move product or you simply want clients, leadership and employees to be able to easily reach your site, access to transportation is one of the key benefits a region can offer.

Just 20 miles west of Chicago, DuPage County is located at the heart of one of the world’s largest freight gateways, offering businesses access to multiple modes of transportation, including:

  • Three international airports: O’Hare, Midway and DuPage. O’Hare alone is responsible for moving nearly one third of the United States’ total cargo, valued at $170 billion.
  • Seven major interstates.
  • Twenty-eight of the top 30 cities in the Midwest within an eight-hour drive.
  • The nation’s busiest rail gateway.
  • Close proximity to North America’s largest inland port.
  • One hundred twenty-seven square miles of prime real estate that will soon offer direct access to O’Hare through the region’s Western Access initiative.

A collaborative, business-friendly environment

In DuPage, public- and private-sector leaders work together to enact smart, pro-business legislation, keep property taxes low, foster new business opportunities, and build, maintain and promote the advantages that make our region a premier choice for businesses from a wide range of industries.

Start-ups and other small businesses can find additional support through Innovation DuPage, an incubator program that provides workshops, networking opportunities, tech resources, and more.

To learn more about DuPage County’s business climate, download an up-to-date economic indicators report here.

A high quality of life that helps businesses attract and retain talented workers

moving your business

DuPage County helps businesses meet their workforce goals by providing an exceptional environment for people to live and work. The area features amenities for families and young professionals alike, with safe neighborhoods, excellent schools, low crime rates, and a thriving arts and culture scene. (In fact, over the last 10 years, the region has seen a 20% increase in the number of arts, entertainment and recreation establishments.)

Here, opportunities to connect with nature are always right around the corner, with more than 60 forest preserves featuring 25,000 acres of land. For cyclists, hikers and runners, the 55-mile Illinois Prairie Path offers a beautiful way to experience DuPage and surrounding counties.

DuPage is also home to a zoo, several botanical gardens, and numerous museums. Some of the most popular sites include Naper Settlement (a 12-acre recreation of a 19th-century village) and Morton Arboretum (a 17,000-acre “tree museum” that celebrates nature alongside stunning works of art).

For families, education is front and center. The 43 public school districts within DuPage regularly win School Search and Bright Red Apple awards, boasting a 93% graduation rate. Forty-five percent of residents going on to attain a bachelor’s degree or higher.

A highly educated and skilled workforce—both within the community and right next door

Moving your business

DuPage is home to a highly educated and skilled workforce. Here, one in four adult residents have a graduate degree, giving the region the highest educational attainment in Illinois. Within DuPage, 51% of residents over 25 have a Bachelor’s degree or higher, 93% have a high-school degree or higher, and 20% have a postgraduate degree.

DuPage businesses can also draw from a huge talent pool right next door. Chicago has a vast network of skilled professionals, and the area’s robust public transportation network – which includes PACE, the 7th largest bus service in North America, as well as the Metra train system, which has 495 miles of rail and 23 stops in DuPage – makes for an easy commute.

A diverse and resilient economy

Like a good investment portfolio, DuPage isn’t dominated by any one business or industry. Instead, the region is characterized by an ecosystem of businesses hailing from a wide range of industries—from aerospace and horticulture to food production and data centers.

This resiliency means that the DuPage economy isn’t contingent on the success or failure of a single business or industry.

During the early months of COVID-19, the value of this economic diversity was made especially clear. Even as several local industries were forced to hit the brakes, others continued functioning and even expanded their work, upholding the region’s economy in a way an economic monoculture couldn’t.

Access to energy that’s affordable, reliable and clean

One of the key factors a business moving to a new location should consider is the cost and reliability of local utilities—and this is another area where DuPage excels.

Businesses in DuPage benefit from highly affordable and reliable access to energy due to ComEd, which provides electric power to the region. ComEd has consistently ranked among the top 1% of energy companies in the nation because of its high reliability and low cost. ComEd’s rates are among the most competitive in the U.S.

But cost and reliability aren’t everything. To help businesses achieve their sustainability goals and reduce our region’s environmental impact, ComEd offers options that allow businesses to obtain up to 100% renewable energy. Today, due in large part to ComEd’s programs, Illinois has the sixth-lowest electricity-generated carbon emissions in the country.


Keep exploring DuPage County, Illinois

Want to learn more about DuPage County? Take a look at our list of The Top DuPage Workplaces of 2021, dive into the history of the I-88 Corridor, or learn how global industry leader Ball Horticultural is literally coloring our world from DuPage.