Data from Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source provides foundation for first U.S. approved RSV vaccine

Argonne National Laboratory

GSK’s vaccine, Arexvy, is based in part on structural biology work conducted more than a decade ago at the Advanced Photon Source, located in DuPage County at Argonne National Laboratory.

Press Release from Argonne National Laboratory

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a highly contagious disease that affects millions of people each year around the world, resulting in an estimated 160,000 deaths. In the United States, severe RSV causes 6,000 to 10,000 deaths among people 65 years of age or older.

On May 3, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Arexvy, an RSV vaccine developed by pharmaceutical company GSK plc, formerly GlaxoSmithKline plc. It is the first RSV vaccine to be approved in the United States, and according to GSK’s press release, the first for older adults to be approved anywhere in the world. This is a crucial step toward improving preventative care for this deadly disease.

Although Arexvy has recently been approved, its origins date back more than a decade. GSK’s vaccine is based in part on data collected at the Advanced Photon Source (APS), a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science user facility at DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory, starting in 2009. Those data were collected by Jason McLellan, now a professor at the University of Texas at Austin; Peter Kwong, chief of the structural biology section at the National Institutes of Health (NIH); and Barney Graham, who retired from NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in 2021. (Graham is now the senior advisor for global health equity at Morehouse School of Medicine.)

McLellan was a postdoctoral researcher in Kwong’s lab at NIH from 2008 to 2013. The key to the RSV vaccine he, Kwong and Graham developed was a stronger understanding of the F protein, which sticks out from the surface of the virus and makes first contact with human cells, infecting them. The protein has two conformations: prefusion, a smaller form that first makes contact with cells, and postfusion, an extended form that the protein adopts once it has finished helping the virus into those cells.

Since infection depends on the F protein achieving its postfusion mode, McLellan, Kwong and Graham focused their efforts on stabilizing the protein in its prefusion form. This would provide a target for the immune system, helping it develop neutralizing antibodies against the virus. The researchers created more than 100 different variants of the F protein before they achieved success, and parts of that work were performed at the Southeast Regional Collaborative Access Team (SER-CAT) beamline at the APS, operated by the University of Georgia.

“The structures we determined at the APS played an important role in the development of this vaccine,” McLellan said. ​“The availability of light source facilities such as the APS meant that we could try multiple variants until we hit on the most stabilized antigen.”

In May 2013, McLellan, Kwong, Graham and their colleagues reported success, publishing their work in Science. In November 2013, they reported a vaccine candidate for RSV that was based on a prefusion-stabilized form of the F protein. When injected into animals, that vaccine candidate elicited exceptionally high levels of neutralizing antibodies. That paper was also published in Science, and included structural work performed at SER-CAT.

“SER-CAT is honored to have played a small but important part in building the groundwork for this momentous lifesaving vaccine,” said B.C. Wang, SER-CAT director. ​“This work illustrates the importance of making state-of-the-art resources such as SER-CAT available to the nation’s scientists.”

Since then, various permutations of that vaccine have undergone clinical trials. Arexvy is based in part on the vaccine candidate developed by McLellan, Kwong, Graham and their fellow researchers.

In its main clinical trial, Arexvy was administered to approximately 12,500 patients age 60 or older. The vaccine was shown to reduce the risk of developing lower respiratory tract disease (LRTD), a common RSV-related illness, by 82.6 percent, and severe LRTD by 94.1 percent.

 ​“I’m very pleased to see our hard work pay off with an approved vaccine for RSV,” McLellan said. ​“Vaccine development and approval takes time, but knowing that our research will result in lives saved and severe illnesses avoided is immensely gratifying.”

Since 2013, McLellan and Graham have turned their attention to coronaviruses, applying the same technique they developed for RSV to the infamous spike protein found on coronaviruses. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020, they joined with other colleagues to apply their method to inhibit the spread of the disease. They discovered that the same principle applied to the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and the mutations they developed were incorporated into both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines.

“The COVID-19 vaccines were developed and approved quickly, but it was this structural biology work by McLellan and his colleagues on other viruses, such as RSV, over more than a decade that helped make them so effective,” said Bob Fischetti, Argonne group leader and life sciences advisor to the APS director. ​“It’s great to see the work come full circle and result in an approved RSV vaccine. It underlines the continuing public health benefits of basic research occurring at the APS and other light sources worldwide.”   

About the Advanced Photon Source

The U. S. Department of Energy Office of Science’s Advanced Photon Source (APS) at Argonne National Laboratory is one of the world’s most productive X-ray light source facilities. The APS provides high-brightness X-ray beams to a diverse community of researchers in materials science, chemistry, condensed matter physics, the life and environmental sciences, and applied research. These X-rays are ideally suited for explorations of materials and biological structures; elemental distribution; chemical, magnetic, electronic states; and a wide range of technologically important engineering systems from batteries to fuel injector sprays, all of which are the foundations of our nation’s economic, technological, and physical well-being. Each year, more than 5,000 researchers use the APS to produce over 2,000 publications detailing impactful discoveries, and solve more vital biological protein structures than users of any other X-ray light source research facility. APS scientists and engineers innovate technology that is at the heart of advancing accelerator and light-source operations. This includes the insertion devices that produce extreme-brightness X-rays prized by researchers, lenses that focus the X-rays down to a few nanometers, instrumentation that maximizes the way the X-rays interact with samples being studied, and software that gathers and manages the massive quantity of data resulting from discovery research at the APS.

This research used resources of the Advanced Photon Source, a U.S. DOE Office of Science User Facility operated for the DOE Office of Science by Argonne National Laboratory under Contract No. DE-AC02-06CH11357.

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://​ener​gy​.gov/​s​c​ience.

Breakfast with the Chair

Breakfast with Chair Conroy

Mental Health in the Workplace

DuPage County business leaders gathered on Wednesday, April 5, 2023 at CBRE in Oak Brook for an important, roundtable discussion about mental health in the workplace. A variety of businesses and organizations throughout DuPage engaged in meaningful conversations about the resources available in DuPage County and what employers can do to help remove stigmas and support workforce. The discussion was led by Lori Carnahan, LCPC, Deputy Director of Behavioral Health at the DuPage County Health Department and Chris Hoff, MPH, Director of Community Health Resources at the DuPage County Health Department.

To open discussion, The Hon. Deborah Conroy, Chair of the DuPage County Board, shared that almost 50 million American adults experienced mental illness in 2019 (before COVID). And 15% of American youth has reported a major depressive episode in the past year.

“The plain fact is that demand is great, especially, among our youth. But I believe that getting the right people on the team, using the resources we have, and those we will pursue, we can make a difference. I know we will change and even save lives,” said Chair Conroy.

Pictured above: Chris Hoff, DuPage County Health Department, Glenn Mazade, Old National Bank, DuPage County Board Chair Deborah Conroy, Lori Carnahan, DuPage County Health Department, and Greg Bedalov, Choose DuPage

24/7 Urgent Crisis Resources

Lori Carnahan, LCPC shared the resources available through the DuPage County Health Department (DCHD), including calling or texting 988 to reach the National Suicide and Crisis Prevention Hotline. DCHD is a local center within the national hotline and can provide support, prevention, and resources 24/7. They also have a mobile response team that can meet someone at their location.

The blue button below can be downloaded for employers to use and should link to DCHD’s 24/7 Urgent Crisis Resources.

Creating Workplace Environments that Support Health & Well-Being

To kick off a discussion about how employers can help support mental health, Chris Hoff, MPH shared an excerpt from the U.S. Surgeon General’s Framework for Workplace Mental Health & Well-Being.

“When people thrive at work, they are more likely to feel physically and mentally healthy overall, and to contribute positively to their workplace… This creates both a responsibility and unique opportunity for leaders to create workplace environments that support the health and well-being of workers.”

The Five Essentials for Workplace Mental Health & Well Being include:

Protection from Harm

  • Prioritize workplace physical and psychological safety
  • Enable adequate rest
  • Normalize and support mental health
  • Operationalize Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Accessibility norms, policies, and programs

Connection & Community

  • Create cultures of inclusion and belonging
  • Cultivate trusted relationships
  • Foster collaboration and teamwork

Work-Life Harmony

  • Provide more autonomy over how work is done
  • Make schedules as flexible and predictable as possible
  • Increase access to paid leave
  • Respect boundaries between work and non-work time

Mattering at Work

  • Provide a living wage
  • Engage workers in workplace decisions
  • Build a culture of gratitude and recognition
  • Connect individual work with organizational mission

Opportunity for Growth

  • Offer quality training, education, and mentoring
  • Foster clear, equitable pathways for career advancement
  • Ensure relevant, reciprocal feedback 

DuPage Employers in Action: Real World Examples

Throughout the discussion leaders from a variety of industries and organizations shared what they are doing to support mental health, remove stigmas, and create healthier workplaces.

Examples include:

  • Creating employee recognition programs.
  • Designating spaces for meditation and mindfulness.
  • Offering outdoor amenities such as gardens, sports and recreation, walking paths, etc.
  • Hosting social events that foster a positive culture.
  • Bringing pets to work.
  • Supporting physical fitness through contributions to gyms and fitness memberships.

Breakfast with the Chair events are hosted by Choose DuPage, with Hon. Deborah Conroy, DuPage County Board Chair. This series of events is an opportunity for local business leaders to connect, learn and discuss important topics effecting DuPage County. Special thanks to CBRE for hosting us in their Oak Brook office.

For more information about the DuPage County Health Department, visit their website.

In Chicago’s Suburbs, Developers are Rethinking Everything

DuPage Business Beat Podcast

DuPage Business Beat | Podcast Episode 1

COVID changed the way millions of people work. Now, its aftershocks are pushing developers and communities across Chicagoland to think creatively about how they use their space.

In this episode, host Greg Bedalov meets with two real estate industry experts to discuss the stories behind key trends in employment, industry sectors, the regional GDP, and more. From the ‘amenities race’ to innovative mixed-use developments, Greg and his guests cover the topics that impact people and businesses across the region. 

Guests: Jim Adler and Mark Moran, Executive Vice Presidents of Chicago-based brokerage firm NAI Hiffman

Host: Greg Bedalov, President and CEO of Choose DuPage

Dive Deeper:

A special thanks to College of DuPage for supporting today’s episode. Stay tuned for more episodes of the DuPage Business Beat.

Meet the Team: Lisa Miceli, Vice President, Economic Development

Lisa Miceli Choose DuPage

A closer look at the people and personalities inside Choose DuPage

Over the last decade, Lisa has become a familiar face to our board members, municipalities, elected officials, and other key partners. Most people recognize Lisa as one of the driving forces behind Choose DuPage’s economic development strategy and initiatives. And as she approaches her tenth year working at Choose DuPage (August 2023), her impact can be seen in a number of the programs and initiatives that contribute to our region’s success and economic prosperity.

Read the Q&A below to learn more about Lisa – and see what her colleagues had to say!

Tell us about a unique experience you had, that made an impact on your life.

My junior year of college, I attended college while traveling around the world on a ship. We sailed to 13 major ports and visited numerous cities in each port. It fueled my love for travel and learning about different people and cultures.

Who is someone you admire and why?

My father-in-law. He spent his life traveling the world and writing books about his travels.

If Choose DuPage had a talent show, what would your talent be?

One of my hobbies, (which I guess you could also call a talent), is to shop for old antiques and items and repurpose them into something functional or stylish.

Finish this sentence. On Sunday mornings, you can usually find me…

Drinking a cup of coffee with my husband Sean and talking on the phone with my three kids – Halle, Sydney and Jake.

Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t listen to Greg. 🤣

What has been your favorite project to work on at Choose DuPage?

If I had to choose one, I’d say Connect DuPage. I came up with the initial idea for this program and have really enjoyed developing it from the idea stage to a program that is helping businesses.

What’s one of your favorite attractions in DuPage County?

Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art in Elmhurst.

From her colleagues: Random takes on Lisa.

“Lisa lives on a lake, but doesn’t actually swim in lakes – I just don’t get that…”

“When it comes to Amish auctions and flea markets, she’s a true aficionado. It’s remarkable.”

“Lisa should have been a doctor – she once diagnosed me with strep throat over the phone. When I went to urgent care, they didn’t think I had it, but sure enough – Lisa was right!”

“Can we talk about her taste in music? Really bad 80’s music is her jam. It’s also her one flaw.”

“Lisa is a truly wonderful colleague – she’s creative, helpful, resourceful, and very caring.”

$175 Million Available in B2B Grants for Restaurants, Hotels and Creative Arts Businesses

grant funding

Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) announced $175 million in available grant funding through the Back to Business (B2B) program. Following state recovery for businesses totaling nearly $1.5 billion, the latest American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) -funded opportunity is designed to provide additional support for the hardest-hit sectors, including restaurants (B2B Restaurants), hotels (B2B Hotels), and businesses or organizations in the creative arts sector (B2B Arts). To provide hands-on support and raise awareness about the program, the State has mobilized a network of more than 100 community navigators across Illinois. 

“In the three years since COVID-19 brought our state, our nation, and our world to a standstill, Illinois businesses have come back swinging—in part thanks to our Back to Business program,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “My administration is committed to helping small business owners move past survival and onto long-term success—and this latest investment of $175 million in B2B grants does exactly that.”

As outlined in statute, B2B Arts and B2B Restaurants grant award amounts will be determined by revenue declines, as reflected on tax returns, and funding for hotels will be allocated by number of rooms. Applications are open from April 5 through May 10, 2023 and awards are expected to be made several weeks after the deadline date. All eligible applicants will receive a grant as long as the business meets eligibility requirements and submits proper documentation and attestations. 

The program design is based on legislation establishing the Restaurant Employment and Stabilization Grant Program ($50 million), Hotel Jobs Recovery Grant Program ($75 million) and the Illinois Creative Recovery Grant program ($50 million). The funding is designed to offset losses and support job retention in the hardest-hit industries. 

“Illinois’ businesses have made a strong recovery since the most difficult times of the pandemic and we’re proud to build upon that progress through additional support for hard-hit industries,” said DCEO Director Kristin A. Richards. “Restaurants, hotels and creative arts are industries designed to bring people together, and with an additional $175 million we are investing in communities and supporting continued economic development.” 

DCEO has enlisted a robust network of more than 100 community navigators to conduct outreach and provide technical assistance in the hardest hit communities. Community Navigators will be conducting outreach, hosting webinars, and supporting prospective applicants to prepare before the application opens on April 5, 2023. This is in addition to available small business support available through Illinois’ network of Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs). 

In order to manage a high volume of applications in a timely manner, DCEO has enlisted a program administrator – the National Community Reinvestment Coalition Community Development Fund (NCRC CDF) – to support with application review, provide technical portal support for applicants, manage the development of the application portal and provide support in processing payments. 

“The impacts of the pandemic are far from over for small businesses and its aftermath continues to threaten their long-term success, especially for those owned by Black, Latino, and other underserved entrepreneurs,” said Marisa Calderon, Executive Director of NCRC CDF. “These grants will help to shore up small businesses, preserve what they have worked so hard to build, and save jobs in our communities.”

Eligibility, Application, and Awards

The B2B Restaurants (20 ILCS 605/605-1100), B2B Hotels (20 ILCS 605/605-1095) and B2B Arts (30 ILCS 709/40) programs were designed in accordance with state statute, which specified industries, buckets of funding, spending guidelines and more. A summary of the programs are included below. 

View a recording from Choose DuPage’s informational webinar:

“Budgets are about priorities, and another $175 million for the B2B program is once again reiterating that small businesses are top of mind,” said Leader Jehan Gordon-Booth, (D-Peoria). “Small businesses are built on dreams. Whether it is a young person with a new plan, or a long-held idea for a second career, it is a priority that the State of Illinois do everything we can to help them thrive.”

“The Back to Business program and other relief efforts helped thousands of small businesses across Chicago and Illinois bounce back from the pandemic,” said State Senator Elgie?Sims, (D-Chicago). “Because Illinois has been responsible in our budgeting, we are able to provide funds for entrepreneurs and businesses that need it most.”

“Tourism businesses like restaurants, hotels, and arts organizations are the beating heart of not just my district’s local economy, but they are critical to the entire state,” said State Senator Sara Feigenholtz, (D-Chicago). “I look forward to businesses across Illinois being reinvigorated by these dollars as they gear up for what will be an incredible travel summer for our state.”

“We are excited to spread the word about the additional $175 million in available grant funding to businesses that need support,” said State Senator Celina Villanueva, (D-Chicago). “During previous rounds, I walked door to door with DCEO to make sure that small business owners, especially immigrant-owned businesses, knew about this opportunity so they can get the support that they need. I look forward to visiting my small business corridors again with this great news.”

“Chicago has seen an encouraging rise in tourism and the timing couldn’t be better for the small businesses in my district,” said State Rep. Theresa Mah, (D-Chicago). “We look forward to building upon this momentum as the state launches the next round of funding for restaurants, hotels and creative arts organizations.”

“These restaurant grants are a lifeline for local restaurants that are continuing to recover from the past few years,” said Sam Toia, President and CEO of Illinois Restaurant Association. “We are grateful to Governor Pritzker and DCEO for their partnership and ongoing support of the hospitality industry.”

“The hotel industry was among the hardest hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. As occupancy numbers rise closer to pre-pandemic levels and the industry continues to recover, the funding from this grant will give us the boost we need to rehire workers and support the returning tourism demand,” said Michael Jacobson, President & CEO of the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association. “I want to thank Governor Pritzker and DCEO for their efforts to support Illinois’ tourism economy and show the rest of the world that we are ready to welcome visitors to our communities.”

“This $50 million in relief funding for the creative sector couldn’t come at a more critical time,” says Claire Rice, Executive Director of Arts Alliance Illinois. “We just passed the three-year anniversary of the March 2020 shutdown, and our sector is still facing significant challenges: lower revenues, audience hesitancy, and increased expenses. We’re grateful to the State of Illinois for making this recovery funding possible, and the Alliance will work tirelessly with a large partner network to make sure that our colleagues in arts and culture across Illinois know that these invaluable dollars are available to help recoup some of their losses.”

B2B Restaurants, B2B Hotels and B2B Arts builds on the success of the Business Interruption Grants (BIG) program and the first round of the Back to Business (B2B) Programs, launched by the Pritzker administration to provide more than 15,000 awards to businesses totaling $536 million, with 47 percent of grants awarded to minority-owned businesses – a testament to the work of the community navigators program designed to help reach more underserved businesses in minority and rural communities across the state. 

Since the onset of the pandemic, DCEO has allocated nearly $1.5 billion in pandemic-related support for businesses, including $536 million through B2B & BIG, $899 million in Child Care Restoration Grants (administered in partnership with DHS), $18.5 million in local CURE funding specifically allocated to businesses, $14 million in Emergency Hospitality Grants, and $3.5 million in BIG agriculture grants.

New retail and office leases secured at Naperville’s CityGate Centre

Naperville office lease

Calamos Real Estate LLC recently announced it has entered into two new lease agreements, one each for retail and office at CityGate Centre in Naperville.

Apotheco Pharmacy Group will open its newest retail location leasing 3,740 square feet at 2155 CityGate Ln., bringing the 54,479 square-foot retail building to 90 percent occupancy. The lease, brokered by Frontline Real Estate Partners for Apotheco and Calamos Real Estate for CityGate Centre, will commence July 1, 2023, for a 10-year term. Warren Johnson Architects, Inc., will design the space which is projected to open in late summer.

With locations in 15 states including an existing Illinois location in Chicago’s Lincoln Park, Apotheco is a dermatologic pharmacy; it keeps a fully stocked, extensive inventory of dermatology medications frequently used to treat acne, eczema, psoriasis, wound care and more. While its pharmacists are highly specialized in dermatological medications, they are fully licensed to fill other prescribed medications and will order as needed, making it a welcome amenity for residents of Domain CityGate, the new, 285-unit luxury apartment building that opened at CityGate Centre fall 2022, other area residents and employees of CityGate Centre’s commercial tenants.

“Beyond the convenience it offers those who live and work here and nearby, Apotheco makes a lot of sense at CityGate Centre,” said Calamos Real Estate Vice President Chris Landis. “As home to two leading dermatology practices— Oak Dermatology and Duly Health & Care—it’s a smart choice for this highly specialized, yet full-service, pharmacy to open its west suburban location at CityGate Centre.”

In another separate transaction, Elequin Capital, a capital investments firm founded in 2019 by Pete Guiterrez and headquartered in midtown Manhattan, has leased 2,628 square feet of ready-to-use office at 2135 CityGate Ln. The lease, which brings the Class A building to more than 86 percent occupancy, will commence April 1.

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

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

Chicago Region Named Top Metro in the U.S. for Business, 10th Consecutive Year

Business Relocation

Site Selection Magazine has named the Chicago region the Top Metro in the U.S. for corporate relocation and site selection, for the tenth consecutive year. News of the Chicago region’s Top Metro rank for 10 consecutive years was announced at an event this month, where World Business Chicago convened city and regional leaders with companies that made pro-Chicago decisions in 2022.

Site Selection Magazine reports that the Chicagoland metro area saw a record number of new and expanding corporate locations, more than any other region in the country. “If winning multiple championships establishes dynasties, what do you call it when you win ten years in a row?” asks Site Selection Managing Editor Adam Bruns. “In Chicagoland, they hand the ball back to the ref and act like they’ve been there before. Because they have. Our project data tell us the metro area continues to attract companies and the talent those companies covet. Led by World Business Chicago, the newly formed Greater Chicagoland Economic Partnership and most of all by talented professionals, workers and business leaders, the region continues to meet its challenges with creative solutions, bold programs and the sort of candor and openness that’s almost a Chicago brand.”

2022 Top Metros Ranking

Major companies such as Mars Wrigley, Kellogg’s, Google, BMO, EeroQ, Bartesian, New Cold, and Lion Electric are among those that have recently expanded or relocated to Chicago in 2022, contributing to the economy and bringing substantial investments, job growth, and new opportunities to the region. The region’s ongoing efforts to create a dynamic and welcoming business environment, along with its commitment to driving sustainable and inclusive economic growth that benefits all residents, have helped to maintain its status as the top metro for corporate investment in the US.

The Greater Chicagoland Economic Partnership promotes the region as a powerhouse with a well-established infrastructure, deeply rooted industries, and a robust network of businesses. With its exceptional connectivity, the region is uniquely positioned to weather economic challenges. The greater Chicagoland region is now home to a thriving startup ecosystem, bolstered by a growth capital network, driven by innovation and technology. These newly emerging and accelerated ecosystems are set to propel the region towards an even brighter economic future.

About the Greater Chicagoland Economic Partnership

The Greater Chicagoland Economic Partnership (GCEP), a first-of-its-kind united effort including the City of ChicagoCook County, and six counties across metropolitan Chicago, is driving a regional economic strategy intended to deliver mutual benefits to the partners, and strengthen the greater Chicagoland region’s economic force in an increasingly fierce competitive global market.  The GCEP is focused on promoting the region’s many assets, including extensive freight infrastructure, diverse talent, strong exporting industries, and world-class institutions of innovation, research, and culture as its competitive global identity.

Illinois Ranks #2 State in the Nation for Corporate Investment

Corporate investment
Site Selection Magazine – an international industry-leading business publication — released its annual corporate expansion and relocation rankings, naming Illinois 2nd in the nation for corporate projects and Chicago the Top Metro for the 10th year in a row. The publication noted 487 Illinois projects in 2022, moving the state up from the number three spot in the previous year’s rankings.
“Illinois is open for business and leading the way as one of the top 10 states for corporate investment, with Chicago named the number one metro for the 10th year in a row,” said Governor Pritzker. “Thanks to our nation-leading infrastructure revitalization, talented workforce, and growing economy, Illinois is the best place to do business.”
The issue also named the Chicago metropolitan area as the Top Metro for corporate investment for the 10th straight year. With a growing reputation as a tech hub with Google’s purchase of the Thompson Center and new headquarters moving in, such as Kellogg, Chicago continues to bolster its reputation as a global powerhouse.
“Illinois is the best state to live, work and do business and under Governor Pritzker’s leadership, we’ve reached unprecedented fiscal health, surpassed $1 trillion GDP for the first time and continue to create jobs and grow our economy,” said Acting DCEO Director Kristin A. Richards. “We’re proud to have nearly 500 corporate investments in 2022 and looking ahead, we are doubling down on our business attraction and retention efforts to support economic development in every corner of the state.”
The State of Illinois has created an environment where companies can thrive through unprecedented investments in our infrastructure and our workforce, while also developing cutting edge programs that bring economic growth and jobs to the state. Illinois recently launched a $400 million invest in Illinois fund to attract large businesses and stay competitive with other states, expanded incentives for the clean energy industry, and made it easier for companies to apply for EDGE – the state’s primary incentive program.
The state also announced $40 million in grants to supercharge the development of megasites – large, developed sites ready for occupancy for manufacturers, distribution centers, industrial centers, and more. These grants will increase the number of investment-ready sites in Illinois and increase the state’s competitiveness for large-scale projects.
Companies that located or expanded throughout Illinois in 2022 include:
  • CyrusOne Data Center – $250 million facility located in Aurora
  • Ferrero – Bloomington manufacturing facility; $214.4 million investment and 200 jobs
  • GAF Commercial Roofing – Peru manufacturing plant; $80 million investment and 70 jobs
  • LG Chem/ADM – two new joint ventures in Decatur; 125 jobs
  • Ollie’s Bargain Outlet – Princeton distribution center; $68 million investment and 145 jobs
  • Prime Data Centers – New $1 billion data center in Elk Grove Village
  • T/CCI – Decatur retooling for EV component manufacturing; $20 million investment and 50 jobs
  • Tyson Foods – Caseyville manufacturing facility expansion, $180 million investment and 400 jobs
Similarly, the State of Illinois – which was recently named the top state in the Midwest for Workforce development by Site Selection – has made unprecedented investments in training programs and workforce facilities, including Manufacturing Training Academies, Illinois Works pre-apprenticeship programs, and nearly $180 million annually for clean energy jobs training and community support efforts under the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA).
“Site Selection’s ranking of top states for business attraction validates that we are on the right track,” said Intersect Illinois CEO Dan Seals. “Illinois has the talent, infrastructure, central location and some of the most competitive tools needed to attract major job creators to the state and companies are noticing.”
“Illinois’ performance improved in both categories of project counts this year – from third place to second in total projects and from seventh to fourth in projects per capita,” says Mark Arend, editor in chief of Site Selection. “This will signal to readers that Illinois is an attractive and effective location for establishing and expanding operations.”
Site Selection’s yearly analyses are regarded by corporate real estate analysts as “the industry scoreboard.” To qualify, projects must meet one or more of these criteria: investment of $1M or more, creation of 20 or more new jobs or 20,000 sq. ft. or more of new space.

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

CityGate Centre Class-A Office Space

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merkur is Giving Chicagoland Manufacturers an Upgrade

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

Merkur was looking for the next big thing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Global Search

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

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

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

Follow the Leader

Lion Electric Chicagoland

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

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

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

The “Sweet Spot”

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

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

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

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

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

Dan Krohn Merkur
Dan Krohn, Business Development Manager at Merkur

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

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

“There’s Something Happening Here”

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

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

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

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

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

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