Start Your Engines: Northern Illinois Emerges as an EV Powerhouse

electric vehicles

Northern Illinois has long been a leader of science, technology and advanced manufacturing. Now, those fields are coming together to drive the region’s electric-vehicle (EV) ecosystem—a growing network of communities, manufacturers, institutions and suppliers dedicated to all things EV.  

The result is a win-win: an influx of jobs and investment for the region and an emerging powerhouse committed to building the future of sustainable technology.

Charged Up: Welcome to the EV Ecosystem

Governments and businesses around the world have committed to reducing carbon emissions and investing in more sustainable technologies. That includes Illinois, where the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act has the state on the road to 100% clean energy by 2045.

To deliver on these commitments and create a cleaner, more sustainable future, communities must reduce their reliance on fossil fuel-burning automotives. (The EPA estimates that transportation accounts for about 27% of U.S. emissions.) That means alternatives, such as EVs, must be made widely available.  

While a small portion of Americans currently drive electric vehicles, making EVs affordable and available to the majority of the country will require mass production, as well as investments in a new infrastructure to support EVs and advancements in the technologies that power them. EVs are coming, but first we must solve a massive logistical puzzle.

That’s exactly what’s happening in Illinois, where an ‘EV ecosystem’ has emerged to fuel the development and production of EVs. This ecosystem consists of six major factors:

  1. The regional supply chain, including businesses that manufacture EVs, batteries, semiconductors and other related technologies. Illinois is the fourth-largest auto employment base in the U.S., the #2 location for battery manufacturers, and #4 in number of locations that manufacture non-battery EV components.
  2. The policies that support EV-related investments, including subsidies, rebates and incentives through the Illinois Climate and Equitable Jobs Act and the Reimagining Electric Vehicles Act. In Illinois, there are currently more than $70 million in capital funds earmarked for EV infrastructure projects.
  3. The research institutions that advance the economic and scientific development of the EV field. Two of the 17 U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratories are located in the heart of Northern Illinois, DuPage County: Argonne and Fermilab. Argonne alone receives $1 billion in annual funding to advance U.S. battery research and manufacturing, as well as research into the EV-adjacent fields of semiconductors, material science, transportation systems, grid stability and security, clean energy generation, supply chain security, quantum computing and AI.
  4. The diverse talent pipeline that makes all of this possible. Home to some of the nation’s top engineering and IT and computer-science schools, Illinois’ EV workforce is projected to increase by 83% by 2024.
  5. A central location that enables mass distribution of EV products across North America. Northern Illinois is located in the middle of one of the world’s most connected rail networks and is home to several international airports and a robust system of navigable waterways.
  6. Strong local demand for EVs. Illinois is already home to 54,000 EV drivers and thousands of charging stations. That consumer base continues to grow as local drivers, communities and transportation organizations go electric.

On their own, each factor is critical. But it’s their unique combination that has made Northern Illinois a global hub for the EV industry, and businesses are taking notice.

Bumper to Bumper

While the rise of Illinois’ EV ecosystem can be traced to the region’s rich history of automotive production, the industry shifted into overdrive with the arrival of EV manufacturer Rivian.

In 2016, Rivian’s leadership team visited a shuttered Mitsubishi factory in Normal, Illinois. They were there to purchase equipment. However, once they arrived in Illinois and took stock of the region’s workforce and pro-business policies, they changed course and purchased the plant. With backing from investors including Amazon, Ford and Cox Automotive, Rivian expanded their Illinois operations and went public in November 2021. Today, the company employs 3,700 workers and is one of the world’s biggest EV producers.

Attracting Rivian was itself a big win for the Illinois EV industry, but it was only the beginning.   

In 2021, as Rivian’s first electric truck rolled off the assembly line, Canadian manufacturer Lion Electric Company announced that it had selected Joliet in Will County, Illinois as the site of its U.S. manufacturing facility. When production begins in late 2022, Lion’s 900,000-square-foot facility will produce up to 20,000 zero-emission buses and trucks each year.

These vehicles will be essential to helping communities across the country decarbonize transportation systems. Their production, meanwhile, will bring more than 1,400 jobs and over $130 million to Joliet.

Next in line was Merkur, a manufacturing performance and product-development firm. They opened a new office in DuPage County, Illinois to be closer to Lion and the regional EV ecosystem.

“We want to be where our customers are; it’s as simple as that,” said Jonathan Levesque, Director of Business Development and USA Market at Merkur.

“Northern Illinois has several key advantages for us. It’s a major hub for the industries we serve: transportation, manufacturing, aeronautics and agri-food. Plus, its central location and international airports make it easy for us to reach clients and suppliers across the country and around the world. When our client Lion moved here, it was an easy decision to open an office in Downers Grove.”

“What I love about this story is that it shows how attracting the right business brings more businesses,” said Doug Pryor, President & CEO of the Will County Center for Economic Development.

“First there was Rivian, then Lion, then Merkur. Now, we have more companies in EV and related sectors looking to invest. It’s all because of regional collaboration; working together, we made a strong cluster to support future economic growth. We created the conditions that allow these businesses to thrive.”

Fueling the Movement

A short drive from Merkur and Lion – you could easily visit all three on a single charge – is Argonne National Laboratory. One of 17 U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratories (and one of two in DuPage County), Argonne is approaching the challenge of building an EV infrastructure on multiple fronts.

The first is economic. There are currently about 52,000 public charging stations across the U.S. That might sound impressive, but to meet growing demand and facilitate the widespread use of EVs, the country must build hundreds of thousands more.

The good news is that there is a large pool of federal funding – $5 billion from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – marked for new charging stations. However, to access this funding, states must first demonstrate the potential economic benefits of new stations.

Identifying and gathering the right data can be difficult. That’s why scientists at Argonne developed a free online tool (JOBS EVSE) to help states estimate the economic impact of charging stations. Using the tool, state representatives and others can determine the cost of installing and maintaining new stations. They can compare that cost to the total value in sales that the stations are projected to generate, as well as the estimated number of jobs that will be produced during construction and management.

The Consumer Angle

While Argonne is helping states access funding to build charging stations, they are also working to help electric vehicle drivers of the future spend less time at the (electric) pump.

Currently, a pit stop at a charging station can take 30 minutes or more, much longer than it takes to pump gas. Scientists at Argonne are working to narrow that gap. In partnership with several other national laboratories, they are developing batteries and charging technologies designed to speed-up recharging to 15 minutes or less, while enabling batteries to hold higher densities of energy for longer charges.

Faster charging and longer battery life are more than just convenient. Shorter lines at the pumps enable widespread adoption of EVs, while faster charging makes electric trucks more feasible for the fast-moving supply chain.

“I think it’s fair to say that every car company views fast charging as the ‘killer app,’” said Venkat Srinivasan, director of the Argonne Collaborative Center for Energy Storage Science (ACCESS) in a recent post on Argonne’s website. “We are reaching a stage where electric cars and trucks must charge fast — it’s not a nice-to-have.”

Meanwhile, another DuPage County organization, ComEd, is also approaching the EV challenge from a consumer angle. Buying an electric vehicle for the first time can be intimidating. To make the process more approachable, ComEd recently released the EV Toolkit, a digital resource that provides helpful information on savings, benefits and incentives for consumers purchasing EVs, as well as an overview of EV brands and models, rate options and charging locations.

“Mass consumer education is critical,” said Jennifer Morand, Co-President of the Chicago Automobile Trade Association in a ComEd press release. “The EV customers of yesterday can’t be compared to today’s EV buyer, which is why resources like ComEd’s EV Toolkit are pivotal for this next phase of EV adoption.”

Supercharged: The Future of EVs in Northern Illinois

Give it a few years, and you could be riding a bus manufactured by Lion Electric in Joliet, produced under the guidance of Merkur in Downers Grove, powered by a battery using technology developed at Argonne, and built using parts sourced from suppliers across the region.

That’s the vision of Northern Illinois’ EV ecosystem: to create a diverse and comprehensive regional supply chain, where producers can source nearly all of their supplies locally. For the region, that would mean more jobs and a more stable and efficient supply chain, while generating tax revenue for local communities.  

While the Northern Illinois EV ecosystem has already begun to achieve this vision, there is still room to grow.

In particular, there is a high demand for regional producers of batteries and semiconductors. Today, batteries, the most valuable component of electric vehicles, are almost exclusively produced in China, Japan and Korea. (For comparison: in 2020, China had 93 battery-producing mega-factories. The U.S. had four.) Semiconductors, another essential component, are also widely produced overseas.

As a result, domestic EV manufacturers often must source essential components from overseas operations. As the global supply chain has become increasingly volatile, there have been numerous production delays, shortages and rising material costs.

Local, state and national governments are working to change that. New federal programs like CHIPS and the Science Bill offer semiconductor producers billions in subsidies to invest stateside. Meanwhile, Illinois is targeting battery and chip manufacturers through aggressive incentive programs, while communities across Northern Illinois continue to draw investors from across the supply chain to the region’s emerging electric vehicle ecosystem.

“Whether you’re making the vehicle itself, the battery, the chip, or the many other components that go into developing EVs and the EV infrastructure, we want you here,” said Greg Bedalov, President and CEO of Choose DuPage, the economic development organization of DuPage County.

“We have the workforce, the suppliers, the incentives and the location. Most importantly, we have the mindset. Our communities believe that sustainable technology is the key to a better future. We’re here to make it.”

Economic Indicators Report: Q3 2022

Economic Indicators Report DuPage County

The Choose DuPage Economic Indicators Report is published on a quarterly basis. It is intended to provide a snapshot of the current state of the local DuPage County economy.

Q3 Economic Indicators Report Highlights:

  • DuPage County’s unemployment rate rose to 3.3%. 
  • Total employment in DuPage County is 625,642. 
  • Top industries by employment are healthcare and social assistance, professional, scientific, and technical services, and administrative and support and waste management and remediation services. 
  • The office vacancy rate increased to 16.9%. 
  • Industrial vacancy rates continued declining to a historic low of 2.8%. There is currently 3.3 million square-feet of industrial space under construction in DuPage.

Access the full report here

 

Endotronix Announces Expansion of U.S. Headquarters in Naperville, Illinois

Endotronix

The company is constructing a new commercial manufacturing facility and anticipates expanding its workforce to support the launch of its comprehensive patient management platform for heart failure

Endotronix, Inc., a digital health and medical technology company dedicated to advancing the treatment of heart failure (HF), today announced plans to relocate and expand their headquarters in Naperville, Illinois to support the full U.S. commercial launch of its Cordella™ Heart Failure System and Pulmonary Artery (PA) Sensor, pending pre-market approval (PMA) of the sensor by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). The new building will significantly increase Endotronix’s manufacturing and operating capacity, allowing for a 30% workforce expansion as well as continued growth opportunities in the years to come. In addition to the U.S. office, Endotronix will maintain their European office in Ireland.

“This is an exciting time for Endotronix. As we approach full enrollment in our PROACTIVE-HF clinical trial, we are looking ahead toward scaling our manufacturing and operations in anticipation of commercialization of our proactive digital heart failure system,” stated Harry Rowland, CEO of Endotronix. “Naperville offers an ideal location to plant our roots, offering a skilled workforce, affordable quality of life for our employees, desirable proximity to Chicago, and strong sense of community.”

Headquartered in the Chicago-land area since 2013, Endotronix recently signed a lease for an 80,000+ square feet facility that will more than double their current footprint. The new facility is located in the HUB 1415 building (1415 Diehl Road, Naperville, IL) and is currently undergoing custom enhancements to include a state-of-the-art cleanroom, manufacturing, quality, and administrative space. The first phase of construction is scheduled to be completed in early 2023 with hybrid workspace specifically designed to accommodate a flexible workforce. The company is represented by Newmark.

“It’s a pleasure to welcome Endotronix to Naperville,” said Steve Chirico, Mayor of Naperville. “As a fiscally-sound, business-friendly community that provides an unparalleled quality of life to its residents, we are a premier destination for growing companies like Endotronix. We look forward to being the home of their expanded commercial manufacturing and operations.”

The safety and efficacy of the company’s novel Cordella PA Sensor is currently being studied in a global investigational device exemption (IDE) clinical trial called PROACTIVE-HF that is on track to complete enrollment in the coming months. In addition, the company recently announced positive clinical data for the Cordella Sensor from the European SIRONA 2 clinical trial that was presented at the European Society of Cardiology’s Heart Failure Association (HFA) in May.

About Endotronix

Endotronix, Inc., a medical technology company, delivers an integrated platform that provides comprehensive, reimbursable health management innovations for patients suffering from advanced heart failure. Their solution, the Cordella™ Heart Failure System, includes a cloud-based disease management data system and at home hemodynamic management with a breakthrough implantable wireless pulmonary artery pressure sensor for early detection of worsening heart failure. Learn more at www.endotronix.com.

The Cordella System, without the sensor, is available for commercial use in the U.S. and E.U. and is currently in cardiology centers across the U.S. The Cordella PA Sensor is currently under clinical investigation and is not currently available for commercial use in any geography.

Planning a Business Expansion? We can help.

business expansion

Planning a new business expansion in Chicago or the greater Chicago region? Looking to relocate to the DuPage County area? Choose DuPage can provide expert guidance, key resources and valuable business connections to help you navigate the challenges of business development.

Located just west of Chicago, DuPage County is a global hub for a diverse range of industries and sub-sectors, from data centers and logistics to advanced manufacturing, healthcare, food processing and more.

Now, small businesses, start-ups and large corporations alike are choosing DuPage to relocate or expand their business, and Choose DuPage is helping them make it happen

Why DuPage?

DuPage offers businesses a variety of benefits, from a strong talent pipeline to a collaborative business climate, a strategic location, and more.

At a time when businesses around the world are struggling to navigate their supply chain and get ahold of the materials they need, DuPage is strategically located at the center of a global cargo gateway.

Here, millions of tons of cargo move through three nearby international airports (O’Hare, Midway, and the DuPage Airport). DuPage is also located near the nation’s largest inland port, the busiest railroad hub in the U.S., and a highway system that connects businesses in Chicagoland with cities across the Midwest market and beyond. DuPage’s location makes it easier for businesses to access goods, customers, and vendors along the supply chain.

Meanwhile, as businesses compete for talent, DuPage offers one of the nation’s leading talent markets. Our strong workforce ecosystem and seamless talent pipeline are built on national-caliber educational institutions and a diverse economy, as well as organizations and programs that help connect employers to workers.

With more than 640,000 workers in DuPage with a diverse range of skills and educational attainment levels – plus the nearby Chicago talent pool – businesses in the region have access to the workforce they need.

In addition to a strategic location and a strong workforce ecosystem, DuPage offers tax incentives for expansion, as well as low commercial property taxes, close proximity to millions of consumers across Chicagoland, and opportunities to connect with other businesses in a collaborative environment.

The challenge of expansion and relocation

Although it’s often the result of a business’ growth, the process of expanding or relocating to a new area is often one of a business’ greatest challenges.

Whether it’s a start-up that’s expanding its customer base or a well-known corporation opening a new customer service center, most businesses must eventually expand or relocate.

To do so, they may have to purchase new assets, open new units, hire and train additional staff, develop new marketing strategies, move their business to a new location, or add additional square footage to a current location. Expansion or relocation requires a major material investment and a number of difficult decisions, and success ultimately comes down to good planning, solid data and insights, and some help from those who know the market best.

Many businesses struggle to expand or relocate not because they lack the will to do so, but because they don’t have the right knowledge, resources and local connections. Expansion often requires training new employees, finding a location to expand their operations, and connecting with vendors and other businesses in the area along the supply chain—and that requires deep knowledge of the local market.

Before a business expands or relocates, they should strive to understand the market in which they are doing business. They should research local market conditions to understand where their sector is heading, whether the area has the workforce to support their business, and how the regional economy is expected to perform in the future.

Unfortunately, most start-ups and small businesses don’t have the time or resources to thoroughly research the area in which they are expanding. Even for larger businesses, finding reliable, relevant data and building connections within the local supply chain is often difficult.

How Choose DuPage can help

Choose DuPage is an alliance of DuPage County’s public and private sector leaders, representing a wide range of industries and interests within DuPage. Together, we are committed to helping our region and our business community thrive.

As local insiders and experts in the DuPage and greater Chicagoland region, we have the resources, connections and expertise to connect you with incentive programs, help you find the right location for your business, and use reliable, relevant data to understand the region’s economy and business climate.

Industry-Sector Reports: Plan smarter with valuable insights and key data points on your market.

Understanding the present and projected future conditions of a local market is critical to successfully expanding within or relocating to a region.

How is the market expected to perform over the coming years? What is the current state of the workforce for your subsector? How can you connect with vendors, suppliers and other businesses along your supply chain?

Choose DuPage can provide a detailed industry-sector report with critical information about factors like workforce, supply chain, and the overall business climate in DuPage for your industry.

Site Selection Assistance: Work with a local expert to find the right space for your business.

When relocating to a new area, selecting the right location can ultimately determine a business’ success or failure. However, if you are unfamiliar with the area, choosing the right site can be difficult.

It helps to have an expert with a local perspective. At Choose DuPage, we have a deep understanding of the area’s commercial real estate market, and we can help you find a space that suits your needs.

Commercial Collaboration: Learn from peers and connect with businesses along the supply chain.

We offer a variety of opportunities for commercial collaboration, including classes, seminars and networking events. These meetings and events help connect you with other businesses in your industry and along the supply chain, as well as organizations along the talent pipeline that can help you recruit and develop your workforce.

Specialized Resources and Incentives: Access programs designed to help you achieve your goals.

From not-for-profit organizations providing training and consulting services to angel investment programs for start-up business expansion in Chicago and the Chicago area, DuPage businesses can access a wide range of resources and incentives to help achieve their goals. Learn more about these programs on Choose DuPage’s resources page.

Get in touch with Choose DuPage.

For more information on expanding or relocating your business in DuPage County, contact us at info@ChooseDuPage.com.

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.” 

For industrial warehouses, DuPage offers prime location

industrial warehouses

In 2017, U.S. consumers purchased about $424 billion in ecommerce goods.

By 2021, demand had nearly doubled, with $767 billion in annual sales.

And by 2025, demand will nearly double again, with annual sales expected to surpass $1.3 trillion.

In terms of demand, it couldn’t be clearer where ecommerce is heading. Experts anticipate that demand will continue to rise for the foreseeable future as online retailers like Amazon further expand their reach and consumers increasingly opt for at-home shopping experiences.

What’s somewhat less clear is how retailers will keep up. In order to meet consumer demands – particularly for services like rapid shipping – online retailers rely on a vast network of industrial warehouses to store product and move goods. Nowhere are these industrial properties more necessary than dense urban areas, where the majority of the nation’s consumers live. And nowhere is the market for industrial space more competitive.

One of the nation’s largest markets is Chicagoland. With more than 10 million residents in the Chicago metropolitan area, the market is huge, and so is the potential for online retailers. However, opening a warehouse in the densest areas of Chicago can be unfeasible, due to cost or logistical complications. That’s why many retailers have turned to suburbs within the metro, such as DuPage County.

DuPage County’s strategic location amid the Chicagoland market

Located just west of downtown Chicago, DuPage County has long been a regional hub for transportation, as well as corporate headquarters, regional office spaces, education, science, technology and advanced manufacturing, among other industries. But in recent years, following ecommerce trends, DuPage has become a popular hub for industrial warehouses, used by retailers to serve Chicagoland’s vast consumer base.

Hence DuPage County’s industrial vacancy rate, which, as of January 2022, was at a historic low of 3.2%.

For online retailers, part of DuPage’s appeal is its proximity to the Chicago area’s massive consumer base. Using the area’s seven major interstates, retailers can quickly and efficiently move goods to any of the 10 million residents in Chicagoland. They can also access 28 of the top 30 cities in the Midwest within an eight-hour drive.

In addition to highways, DuPage is also uniquely positioned to take advantage of the region’s transportation infrastructure. The area is home to three international airports, including Midway, the DuPage Airport, and O’Hare, the top U.S. cargo airport based on value of shipments.

Meanwhile, the region is also home to the nation’s busiest rail gateway – fifty-percent of all U.S. rail freight passes through Chicago’s rail system by way of DuPage County – as well as the nation’s largest inland port, the Centerpoint Intermodal Center.

Besides the transportation infrastructure, industrial buildings for rent in DuPage benefit from a lower cost of doing business – you can view local tax rates here or take a look at the region’s latest economic indicators report – a large skilled workforce, and a collaborative environment in which businesses along the supply chain work together, along with public leaders, to support one another and create mutually beneficial outcomes.

Finding industrial real estate in DuPage

With all the benefits we mentioned above, DuPage has become a prime location for industrial warehouses. And that has resulted in a record-low vacancy rate.

While it’s a mark of a healthy economy, a low vacancy rate can make it tough for businesses to find new industrial land, industrial buildings for sale, or industrial buildings for lease. (One of the few industrial lots in DuPage currently available is at the DuPage Business Center, a 640-acre space with business sites for sale or build-to-suit from five to 60 acres.)

Fortunately for businesses, more space is set to open soon. There are currently 3.4 million square-feet of new industrial space under construction in DuPage County, as developers across the region quite literally lay the groundwork for the future.

To learn more about transportation, logistics and warehousing in DuPage County, start here.

Collaboration is in the DNA of Downers Grove

Celebrating more than 15 years of the Downers Grove Economic Development Corporation, we look back at the values that built Downers Grove and continue to define it today. 

It all started with the ox.

In 1835, three years after the area’s first settler arrived in what would become Downers Grove, Pierce Downer set out to build a trail. He wasn’t alone. Since arriving, he had been joined by Israel Blodgett and Samuel Curtiss, a pair of settlers who purchased nearby land – at a cool $1.25/acre – where they established a farm and a blacksmith shop.

That morning, the men gathered in the forest to lead a team of oxen. The animals were strapped to a giant log. As they pulled it forward, the log slowly transformed the trail, flattening and widening it. By the time their work was finished, the homesteaders had built a new trail linking their properties to another path: a main thoroughfare that ran from Naper Settlement (Naperville) all the way to Chicago. Things would never be the same.

At the time, it may not have looked like much – a handful of men and oxen dragging a log through the forest – but by building this trail, the settlers connected their tiny village to the rest of the region, laying the groundwork for more people and businesses to move to the community. It was a strategic move.

It was also the area’s very first collaborative economic-development project—though far from the last.

“Collaboration and strategic planning are at the heart of good economic development,” says Michael Cassa, President and CEO of the Downers Grove Economic Development Corporation (DGEDC). The organization, a public-private collaboration that spearheads efforts to attract and retain businesses in Downers Grove, celebrated its 15th year in 2021. 

“The most sustainable and meaningful growth occurs when you have everyone – from both the private and public sectors – moving in the same direction, working to realize a collective vision. We help establish that vision and guide the community towards it.”

The DGEDC is the culmination of a long history of collaboration and strategic planning in Downers Grove. Years after Pierce and his fellow settlers built their new trail, the people of Downers Grove would once again work together – along with leaders of surrounding communities – to lobby the Burlington Railroad Company to build a railroad from Chicago to Aurora. Opened in 1864, the railroad spurred further population growth, as well as the area’s first industrial operations.

In the decades that followed, the public and private leaders of Downers Grove continued to lobby on behalf of their community and guide the area through times of transition.

In the mid-twentieth century, a pair of major tollways were constructed along the village’s northern and western boundaries: a highway in 1958 that would later become I-88, along with I-355 in 1989.

Much like the railroad, these tollways caused major economic expansion in the community. But it was the strategic planning of local business leaders and public officials that made this growth smart, sustainable, and beneficial to the various stakeholders of Downers Grove—residents, visitors, workers and businesses alike.

Then, in 2006, a group of community leaders founded the Downers Grove Economic Development Corporation. A spiritual successor to the many collaborations that transformed Downers Grove from a sleepy village to the diverse and thriving economy it is today, the DGEDC brought together public and private leaders to work collaboratively and strategically.

It couldn’t have come at a better time. In the 2000s, market trends were shifting, e-commerce was rising, and the global economy was entering a new age of volatility. It was time to work together and think strategically. 

Today, one of the DGEDC’s biggest responsibilities is guiding Downers Grove through the economic changes occurring both within and beyond its borders.

Nowhere is there a faster and more dramatic transformation than in the retail market.

Driven by shifting consumer trends and the rise of e-commerce, retailers are hungry for strategic locations for their distribution centers and warehouses. They need locations that are close to their customers, close to a good workforce, and close to a solid transportation network.

Downers Grove hits all three marks. The community is located within a 30-minute drive (or a quick train ride) of 1.4 million qualified workers. Thanks to the two major tollways that border Downers Grove, goods can be quickly and efficiently shipped to customers anywhere in the Chicago region or beyond.

Much like the groups that lobbied for the railroad in the 19th century and capitalized on the new highways of the 20th, the DGEDC works to identify opportunities for businesses to build or expand in Downers Grove, then promotes the community’s advantages to target companies. They also work with the Village of Downers Grove to attract these businesses through incentive programs and infrastructure investments. Meanwhile, the group coordinates the many active projects within Downers Grove to ensure that each one fits into the big picture—the community’s vision for the future.  

The impact of DGEDC’s work is three-fold:

First, you have stories like Bridge Point Downers Grove. The development, which now features three buildings with more than 100 docks and nearly 700 parking spaces, is now home to two Amazon warehouses, as well as a Cooper’s Hawk Winery distribution center.

Today, the location seems like an obvious fit for distribution. It’s just over a mile from I-355 and three miles from I-88. That means distributors can quickly and efficiently get their products to customers, and e-commerce retailers can deliver time-sensitive services like one-day shipping.

“When we began seeing these new trends in industrial real estate and e-commerce, we realized that Downers Grove was in the perfect location,” says Nick Siegel, a Partner at Bridge Industrial, which developed Bridge Point Downers Grove as a joint venture with Banner Oak Capital Partners.

“Here, our tenants have the transportation network, the workforce, the diverse economy, and a community they really love.”

And yet, only a few years ago, the site was a vacant, 74-acre plot with a functionally useless facility. It was only through the collaboration of public and private leaders that the site was identified as a prime location for e-commerce retailers and others, then marketed to developers and potential tenants. DGEDC and the Village saw the site’s potential, they saw how it fit into the big picture, and they worked together to bring it to life.

Bridge Point’s story mirrors other e-commerce-related developments happening in Downers Grove, many of them impacted by the collaborative work of the DGEDC and the Village of Downers Grove. In addition to Bridge Point, Downers Grove has welcomed a number of new distribution centers – ranging from 24,000 to 170,000 square-feet – for businesses like Bridge Industrial, Remedi Senior Care, Thyssen Krupp and Green Bay Packaging, among others. Behind each of these developments, there’s a story of collaboration.

But the story of Downers Grove and the DGEDC is bigger than any one industry—even one as impactful as online retail.

Historically, the community has been defined by a large, diverse group of small and mid-sized businesses. (That includes brick and mortar retail, which, although evolving, continues to account for more than 80% of all U.S. retail sales.) Since the development of the tollways that border Downers Grove, the community has welcomed a number of corporate headquarters and regional offices, from Rexnord Corporation, which recently completed their new 248,000-square-foot manufacturing facility and Aerospace Division Headquarters in Ellsworth Business Park, to Flavorchem, which just opened a 25,000-square-foot innovation center at Oak Grove Commons Business Park.

While newer markets are key to the area’s growth, it’s the legacy industries and businesses that form the basis of its diversity and resiliency. A central part of the DGEDC’s mission is to support these businesses by lobbying on their behalf, marketing them to visitors, helping coordinate expansion and new investment, and promoting business-friendly policies, such as the community’s historically low commercial taxes.

Finally, there’s downtown Downers Grove—an area that’s critical to the community’s appeal to residents, visitors and businesses. Over the last few decades, the Village and the DGEDC have spurred investment in the area through promotion and innovative programs. In 1997, the Village established a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district in the downtown area. (A TIF allows a government to invest in public infrastructure and other improvements up front, then pay for them later with tax revenue generated by the project.) The program resulted in $48M in public improvements and, over the same period, $161M in private investment.

As the Village and the DGEDC led efforts to promote the downtown’s revitalization, the area saw a wave of new multi-family residential developments—including Opus Development, a new apartment complex that will soon break ground in downtown Downers Grove. Meanwhile, a mix of new restaurants and shops have sprung up: Bar Chido, Cadence Kitchen, The Foxtail, Gia Mia, Pierce Tavern and Wasabi, to name a few. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the DGEDC played a critical role in supporting businesses like these and connecting them to key resources. 

As you can see, much of the work of the DGEDC is about the future: the future of the community’s businesses, its historic downtown, its visitors and residents, and its position in the world of e-commerce.

At the same time, the values that guide the community today are the very same ones that drove its first settlers to build that trail all those years ago.

“Of course no one knows exactly what the future will bring,” says Cassa. “But I can tell you that we will build our best future so long as we continue to work together and think strategically.

“In Downers Grove, that’s what we’ve always been about.”


About the Downers Grove Economic Development Corporation 

Since 2006, the Downers Grove Economic Development Corporation has spearheaded efforts in the village to attract new businesses and developers, while retaining legacy businesses and expanding promising developments. As the community continues to grow and transform, the DGEDC board orchestrates public-private collaboration, helps businesses navigate change, promotes business-friendly policies, and coordinates the smart, sustainable growth of the diverse Downers Grove economy.

Learn more about the organization here.

CNC Swiss chooses DuPage County for location and workforce advantages

CNC Swiss

When CNC Swiss Precision Machining was looking to expand their ISO certified, swiss-style machine shop, they knew they wouldn’t have to look far to find a facility that would fit their needs. The company, which has been in DuPage County since its start as a one-machine shop in 2007, recently moved into a new 30,000 square-foot facility in Bloomingdale.

Over the years the business has grown from one machine to 30 and now employs 23 people with plans to hire even more. As a provider of complex precision machined parts for a variety of industries, CNC Swiss requires a vastly diverse set of skills from their workforce. This is, in part, what’s kept the company in DuPage County.

“Our new facility in Bloomingdale not only meets all of our machine shop requirements, but it’s allowed us to create an environment where our workforce can flourish, a place they are proud and happy to be in,” said Jay Boryscka, co-owner of CNC Swiss. “As the company continues to grow, we can draw on DuPage’s central location and diverse workforce to help fuel that growth.”

For more information on CNC Swiss Precision Machining, visit www.cncswiss.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.

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.