A Safer Tomorrow: Advanced Tech is Critical to Protecting Public Health in DuPage

In 2020, many of us were forced to learn just how far a sneeze can travel. While some of us (naively) assumed that a sneeze flies no more than a few feet before harmlessly disappearing, researchers at MIT shattered our illusions with a series of unpleasant statistics. It turns out, a sneeze can travel up to 27 feet, reaching speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour. After the initial flight, droplets linger in the air for up to 10 minutes, forming a very personal kind of cloud that contains everything from bacteria to viruses, including COVID-19.

Sneezes, coughs, laughter, even just normal breathing, speaking and contact: As we learned in 2020, there is no end to the channels that a virus can take en route from one body to another. While social distancing and masks have helped mitigate the spread of COVID-19, many organizations are looking for more effective and potentially permanent solutions to protect public health—now, during the pandemic, as well as in the future.

COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on communities across the world, but it has also highlighted critical weaknesses in our current systems and taught us important lessons about public health. These lessons may help us prevent future pandemics and protect individuals from the viruses and bacterial infections that kill thousands, even in ‘normal’ years.

In DuPage County, organizations of all sizes are turning to innovative ideas and advanced technologies to protect the health of individuals and communities.

Mesòn Sabika is Helping Customers Breathe Easier

The food at Mesòn Sabika is fantastic. But, as anyone who has visited the Naperville restaurant knows, atmosphere is a major part of the restaurant’s appeal.

A short drive west of downtown Naperville, Mesòn is located in a 19th-Century mansion on a pristine, four-acre estate adorned in traditional Spanish décor. It’s the kind of place where you want to be. Going there and sitting on the patio with a cocktail and a plate of empanadas is an experience, not just another dinner. That’s why, in any other year, most of us would be talking about visiting Mesòn Sabika—not just grabbing takeout.

As the first wave of lockdown restrictions began to relax, the community was eager to once again enjoy the atmosphere of Mesòn Sabika, presenting the restaurant with a challenge that many businesses are now facing: How do you give your customers the experience they want, while also protecting their health (and yours)? The owners and staff at Mesòn Sabika went to great lengths to create a safer environment—spacing tables eight feet apart, reducing contact as much as possible, frequently sanitizing surfaces—but, like many of us, they had become aware of the many channels a virus can use to travel across a room, including a simple sneeze. They wanted to protect their customers and staff from any threat, even the ones they couldn’t see.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could catch a sneeze as it travels through the air and remove all the potentially harmful particles before they reach us? Mesòn Sabika discovered a device that does just that. This year, the restaurant installed a state-of-the-art air-purification system (the REME Halo) that continually purifies the air within the mansion. According to the manufacturer, the system uses an innovative zinc ionization system to reduce airborne particles, like dust and mold spores, while killing up to 99% of bacteria and viruses (including COVID-19) both in the air and on surfaces. It even ‘catches’ sneezes mid-air. By the time a sneeze travels three feet, the system will have reduced its germs by 99%.

Mesòn Sabika isn’t the only business using advanced technology to protect the health of customers and staff. All across DuPage County, this sort of solution is appearing in restaurants, schools, hospitals, hotels, shops and the many other places where we gather.

Meanwhile, some DuPage organizations are not only using this technology. They’re creating it.

Sound Inc. is Creating Healthier Office Environments

If you work in marketing or web development, you may be familiar with the concept of ‘heat-mapping’, a technology that creates a ‘map’ illustrating how users have interacted with your website.

A technology company in Naperville has taken the heat-mapping concept and repurposed it to help us clean our offices more efficiently and effectively. Sound Inc.—a tech services firm specializing in audio/visual, security and connectivity for businesses—weaves together a network of technologies designed to keep employees and visitors safe as we return to the workplace. One of the systems uses thermal (heat-sensitive) cameras, motion-sensors and analytics to map the places where people frequently contact surfaces in an office, so cleaning services can focus their efforts on the places with the highest risk of transmission.

But that’s just the start. In addition to mapping high-contact areas, Sound Inc. creates systems that can automatically sound alarms when rooms have surpassed their intended capacity, scan the temperatures of visitors, send alerts when employees are lingering in high-traffic areas—such as hallways, where they’re more likely to come into contact with coworkers or visitors—and monitor policies like mask-wearing and social distancing.

“For a business owner who is worried about having their employees come back and feel safe, that first line of defense is really important,” says Brian Clark, Vice President of Sound Inc. “You want to know who is coming into your building. That concept is called ‘visitor management’, and, traditionally, most businesses don’t do it very well. But now we’re paying closer attention to who comes and goes into our workplaces.”

Beyond protecting employees and visitors from COVID-19, Brian says that his company’s technology can offer protection from other kinds of threats. For example, a system with a motion-sensor can be installed near a door to detect weapons and automatically perform background checks, in addition to reading temperatures.

Scientel Solutions is Helping Organizations Safely Return to ‘Normal’ 

Of all the strange rituals that became ‘normal’ in 2020, the act of having your temperature taken in public is among the strangest. If you have visited a doctor’s office or a restaurant in the past nine months, you probably experienced something like this: Someone in a mask approaches you, aims what looks like a plastic Marvin the Martian laser gun at your forehead, and pulls the trigger. Odd as it may seem, taking temperatures at the entrance of a high-traffic area is a good idea, as it allows businesses to turn away anyone who is feverish, a potential sign of COVID-19.

But these handheld devices have three weaknesses: 1.) Their accuracy ranges from mediocre to unusable, 2.) They require the operator to be in close proximity to multiple, potentially infected individuals, putting them at greater risk, and 3.) The process of scanning a person with a handheld device is tedious and time-consuming. It isn’t a practical solution for businesses or events with high volumes of people entering the area.

The engineers at Scientel Solutions in Aurora were frustrated with the existing temperature-reading systems—on behalf of their own business, as well as their customers’—so, they built a better machine. The Mobile Evaluation and Triage (MET) Unit, which resembles a tall, friendly robot with wheels in lieu of legs, combines several advanced technologies to overcome the weaknesses of handheld scanners.

While the MET also reads temperatures, it does so with far greater accuracy and speed than handheld scanners, while allowing operators to maintain a safe distance from the individuals they scan. At the core of the device is a retinal camera, which reads temperatures by scanning a person’s tear ducts. Sound strange? Maybe it is. But the system is incredible accurate, reading temperatures within 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit, vastly better than most scanners. It’s also fast, scanning each person within less than a second, enabling the device to process dozens of individuals per minute. If a person does have a fever, the device alerts operators—and can be integrated with other systems (for example, to automatically send a notice to security).

The MET unit is ideal for any location that may see a high volume of people—hospitals, corporate centers, municipal buildings, stadiums, airports, etc.—and can be used in conjunction with other safety measures to make events safer. Locally, Scientel has brought the MET to the City of Aurora, Kane County, Stephen Co. and Hesed House, as well as other businesses and organizations around the country.

For Nelson Santos, Founder & CEO of Scientel, technologies like the MET are an essential component of any reopening effort.

“We use the MET Unit for our own employees and all guests on a daily basis,” Nelson says. “With the help of the MET—as well as other technologies—Scientel has been able to hold events in conjunction with social distancing. We believe that we need to continue to operate as a business and function as families, all while being socially responsible given the pandemic.” 

A Safer Tomorrow

No single technology, concept or guideline will protect us from threats like COVID-19 (although, vaccines will go a long way towards solving our immediate problem).

Instead, creating a safer, healthier future for the communities of DuPage County comes down to collaboration: many minds, technologies, businesses and institutions coming together to find smart solutions to our immediate problems, while addressing our long-term challenges.

We need innovators like Scientel Solutions and Sound Inc. bringing us the devices that keep us safe; local businesses like Mesòn Sabika adopting new technologies; organizations like the College of DuPage training contact tracers; companies like Import Logistics finding creative solutions to protect our supply chain; and institutions like Argonne National Laboratory and Fermilab using science to fight back against threats like COVID-19. Just as critically, we need every member of our community supporting these organizations, uplifting one another and thinking about tomorrow.

A safer future isn’t a distant possibility; it’s something we can start building right now. It’s up to every one of us to make it.

In DuPage County, our communities are tapping into high-tech solutions to create a safer tomorrow. From the labs of Argonne to the dining room of Mesòn Sabika, you can find innovation in every corner of DuPage. Learn more at ChooseDuPage.com/Ready

Bridge Development Partners Signs Costco-Innovel Solutions to Lease

Bridge Development

Bridge Development Partners has announced the signing of Costco-Innovel Solutions to a lease at Bridge Point Itasca, its three-building, 741,162-square foot industrial campus in Itasca, Illinois.

Costco-Innovel Solutions signed a long-term lease for 111,909 square feet in Building I of Bridge Point Itasca for last-mile distribution of consumer products. Costco chose the property for its ability to accommodate the necessary car and van parking, dock counts and the proximity to excellent highway access along I-290 and the Elgin-O’Hare Expressway. The company will begin occupying the space immediately while BRIDGE continues to build out the interior space with improvements.

“Just one year after breaking ground on Bridge Point Itasca, we’ve already leased almost two thirds of the project to long-term, high-quality tenants who will help meet the soaring regional demand for crucial medical and consumer goods,” said Nick Siegel, Partner, Chicago Region at Bridge Development Partners. “Our newest tenant, along with the existing users in the park, will cement this development as the premier modern industrial offering in the entire Chicagoland region, and further demonstrates the ever-growing demand for top-of-the-line industrial space across the country.”    

The buildings at Bridge Point Itasca measure 248,362 square feet, 247,176 square feet, and 245,624 square feet respectively. All three buildings feature high-end glass facades, 32-foot clear ceiling heights, ESFR sprinkler systems, and above-standard loading and car parking.

BRIDGE initially acquired the 48-acre property in 2018 from Entercom Communications Corporation and removed the two massive landmark radio towers that had once been transmitters for CBS Radio. BRIDGE broke ground on Bridge Point Itasca in November 2019, and completed it in Summer 2020.

Following this lease agreement, the campus is now 65 percent leased.

Located in the Chicago O’Hare industrial submarket, Bridge Point Itasca is bordered by Interstate 290, IL Route 390, Devon Avenue, and Rohlwing Road/IL Route 53 – providing Costco and all future tenants with unparalleled access to a transportation and distribution network in the heart of DuPage County.

Chris Nelson and Jeffrey Janda of Lee & Associates represented Bridge Development Partners, while Chris Lydon and Brian Pomorski of Avison Young represented Costco-Innovel Solutions.

BRIDGE currently has over 1.2 million square feet under construction in the Chicagoland area, including its newest project, Bridge Point Skokie, a 12-acre land site that will feature a 172,000 square foot Class A facility delivering in Q3 2021, Bridge Point I-355, a 133,100 square foot Class A industrial development in Lombard, and Bridge Point North Phase III, four state-of-the-art facilities totaling 919,281 square feet, which represents the final phase of the master planned business park in Waukegan. BRIDGE recently completed development Bridge Point Wood Dale, a two-building Class A industrial development in Wood Dale which is now 100% leased to two tenants. 

 

For Import Logistics, Navigating COVID-19 Comes Down to Culture and Location

Import Logistics Aurora

AURORA, IL—Local family-owned business Import Logistics moves products to and from countries around the world, ranging from Germany and France to Japan and Myanmar. Mike Swords, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, says that new customers always ask the same question: “Where is Aurora, Illinois?”

As a transportation and logistics company, Import Logistics manages and integrates key services for their clients, including customhouse brokerage, freight forwarding, warehousing/storage and distribution. Simply put, they manage nearly every aspect of the supply chain on behalf of their clients’ businesses—the majority of which are foreign-owned.

While their service is comprehensive, what makes Import Logistics truly unique is the ‘virtual presence’ they offer their international clients: a custom program in which Import Logistics handles nearly every aspect of a company’s U.S. operation. It was this service—combined with their strategic location and adaptability—that enabled this local business to stay strong amid the pandemic.

Evolving from Day 1

To understand the company that Import Logistics is today, you have to go back a half-century.

The story begins in 1971, when future owner and president Colin Hann moved from England to the United States as part of A.E. Engine Components. At the time, A.E. was supplying American businesses like John Deere, Caterpillar and several automotive companies. Two decades later, as A.E. began to move in a new direction, Hann purchased part of the company and founded Import Logistics.

As it happened, Hann founded Import Logistics right as the industry entered a new era. In the coming decades, China would rise as a manufacturing powerhouse, global trade would rapidly accelerate, and ecommerce would emerge as a central pillar of transportation and logistics.

From the very beginning, Import Logistics has always been the kind of company that is constantly evolving—probably because it was founded at a time of sweeping change. That adaptability is engrained in the company’s culture, enabling them to survive major industry shifts and serve their customers’ evolving needs.

You can see the company’s evolution just by looking at the products they move. In their early years, Import Logistics primarily moved industrial and automotive parts, following in the footsteps of their predecessor. But it wasn’t long before they expanded to serve numerous other industries, diversifying their portfolio and shifting their focus to ecommerce. Today, the business moves everything from giant drums of chemicals to backyard badminton sets.

Strategic Location

Import Logistics

When international clients inevitably ask, “Where is Aurora, Illinois?”, Mike Swords begins by describing the sheer volume of freight that moves through the Chicagoland region. Today, one fourth of all U.S. freight originates, terminates or passes through the area. That’s approximately $564 billion in goods each year, weighing some 269 million tons. A client from Japan may not be familiar with Aurora, Illinois—but, with those numbers, anyone can see that Aurora is at an epicenter of international trade.

The volume is impressive, but it’s the variety of transportation modes that has elevated DuPage County and the surrounding region to the status of North America’s preeminent international Freight Gateway. Here, critical waterways, interstates, airports and railways all converge, enabling businesses like Import Logistics to reach two-thirds of the world’s population within just 48 hours.

“I don’t think there’s anywhere else in the U.S. with that capability,” Mike says. “Not with the infrastructure and the other advantages our region has to offer.”

Mike says that two of the region’s transportation channels have been particularly important to his company’s success: railways and highways. With numerous railways within a short drive, drayage companies can easily pick-up containers in Joliet, Chicago, or anywhere in the region, and drive them to Import Logistics. There, the containers can be de-vanned and returned to the railyard, often in the same day. That saves time and money for both Import Logistics and their clients. In addition to their close proximity to major railyards, Import Logistics is located within the I-88 Corridor, just three miles from the highway—which is critical for LTL truckers.

While this strategic location has always given Import Logistics a competitive advantage, it was critical to their survival in the early months of the pandemic.

Playing Jazz

Logistics is sometimes compared to orchestral music, with many people and instruments coming together to create a cohesive movement.

Not a bad metaphor. However, in many ways, logistics is less like orchestral music and more like jazz. While you still have the same basic elements of the more-structured genres, jazz is about improvisation. You have to read the room, detect changes, pivot quickly and stay in communication with all the other players. Otherwise, you’ll fall behind.

Like jazz, logistics is deceptively complex, especially when you are moving goods across borders. When you ship your product internationally, you have to consider an entirely new set of factors, like navigating customs, untangling a web of local laws, and wrangling numerous transportation companies literally on the other side of the world. And while you’re dealing with all those nuanced issues, you still have to focus on serving your customers—who happen to live in a different time zone.

Sound like a headache? It really is. And that’s why Import Logistics developed their signature solution: the virtual presence.

Import Logistics Aurora

With a virtual presence in the U.S., Import Logistics handles virtually every aspect of a client’s U.S. operations, from warehousing and distribution to back-office support. From the time your product arrives in the States to the moment it reaches your customers, Import Logistics ensures that everything goes smoothly.

That means you don’t have to deal with customs—Import Logistics takes care of that. You don’t have to worry about wrangling multiple transportation/storage companies, either. Now, rather than a tangle of organizations and expenses, you have a single, trusted point-of-contact and a single cost.

The service is fully customized. Some clients even elect to have Import Logistics answer the phone as their company. Others have Import Logistics act as their U.S. customer service department—receiving complaints, inquiries and phone orders from buyers.

“It gives our clients an advantage,” Mike says. “Now, they’re not having to call one company for their freight forwarding, another for their customs brokerage, and another to track deliveries.

“It’s all us. As a result, we become more knowledgeable about their products, and we develop those key relationships between the clients and their buyers. It all adds up to a better overall experience.”

COVID Times

When COVID-19 reached the U.S., the American automotive and industrial sectors—originally, the bread and butter of Import Logistics—were hit particularly hard. As demand plummeted, so did shipments. Many clients pay Import Logistics based on a percentage of their overall sales, so the company immediately saw major drops in revenue from clients in these sectors, among others.

But Import Logistics isn’t the business they were in 1990. They no longer depend on the success of one or two industries. Instead, their portfolio is diverse, and that diversity was key during the early months of COVID-19. Even as revenue dropped in sectors like automotive and industrial, it rose in others, like furniture and ecommerce, as consumers adopted to their new work-from-home lifestyle.

In the past, adaptability enabled Import Logistics to survive the transformation of their industry, the rise of the dot-com era, globalization and the 2008 financial collapse. Now, once again, it enabled them to weather disruption.

Import Logistics Aurora

Location was another key factor. As air travel came to a standstill—and, briefly, oceanic cargo ground to a halt—Import Logistics was able to pivot between the DuPage County region’s many transportation modes, ensuring that their customers’ goods were delivered. When goods couldn’t be shipped by air, they moved to water, train and highway. When cargo ships stopped arriving in port, they shifted to other channels. With access to numerous transportation modes, Import Logistics was always able to move their clients’ products—even at the point of greatest disruption.

Meanwhile, international customers found new value in their U.S. virtual presence. As the situation in the States changed from one day to the next, Import Logistics helped them navigate the volatile market, while keeping them informed with regular updates.

“We were getting so many questions,” Mike says. “How is it there in the US? What’s changed today? Suddenly, we were hearing from customers who don’t normally reach out.”

With their customers facing constant uncertainty, Import Logistics began sending a pair of weekly newsletters: a market report and a COVID-19 update. For the market report, the company’s global logistics manager shares key news and analysis of current market conditions in the U.S. and across the globe. “Sharing that knowledge with our clients is key,” Mike says. “We want to be their source of information, so we can relieve some of their stress.”

Similarly, their weekly COVID-19 updates report on the status of the pandemic, starting from a global angle and narrowing down to a national, regional and local level.

Finally, Mike wraps up each newsletter with some good news.

“I finish each update by announcing that we still haven’t had a reported case of COVID-19 here at Import Logistics, which is a feat in itself,” Mike says.

“All in all, we’ve been extremely fortunate.”

Evolving, Once Again

Import Logistics Aurora

What’s next for Import Logistics, a business that’s always evolving? More evolution. Over the last three decades, the business has navigated industry upheavals, financial crises and now a global pandemic. Mike attributes their longevity with their willingness to accept change and adapt to new conditions.

That tradition continues today. Even as they navigate the challenges of the pandemic, Import Logistics is investing in new technologies, analyzing their current processes, and testing an entirely new warehouse management system. As many of their customers turn away from traditional sales models to become ecommerce suppliers, Mike says that it’s important for his company to evolve accordingly.

“Things are always changing—that’s how the world works. We just have to accept the change and find new ways to move forward.”

Just 20 miles west of Chicago, DuPage County is strategically located at the heart of the nation’s transportation network—offering access to North America’s largest inland port, three international airports, seven interstates and the nation’s busiest rail gateway. That’s why businesses like Import Logistics choose DuPage. Click/tap here to learn more about our thriving transportation and logistics industry.

Lisle’s ‘Manna Kitchen’ Pioneers Plant-Based Dining in the Western Suburbs

Manna Kitchen Lisle

LISLE, IL—The Village of Lisle couldn’t be much farther from the Bavarian countryside. But when Markus Schramm first visited the DuPage County suburb—as a tourist in 1992 and as an intern the following year—he felt right at home.

“I grew up on the outskirts of the Alps,” Markus says. “When I first visited Lisle, I was struck by how natural the surroundings are, with so many forest preserves. I also like the small-town feel. You really have a personal connection with your neighbors.

“I know this sounds strange, because I came from a completely different country, but Lisle immediately felt like home.”

Today, the Schramm family owns and operates two businesses in Lisle: Manna Organics and Manna Kitchen. In 2008, Markus and his wife, Shanti, founded Manna Organics, their first business, after purchasing a bread-baking division from a Canadian company. They moved the commercial bakery to Lisle, where they continue to operate today. The business remains small, with eight employees, but Manna Organics distributes to Whole Foods and various independent stores and co-ops nationwide.

manna kitchen

In 2019, the Schramms opened a restaurant across the street from their Lisle bakery. Manna Kitchen—“Manna” is an ancient hermetic word meaning “from above”—is something of a pioneer. While Chicago has been home to plant-based restaurants for years, Manna Kitchen is the first diner in the western suburbs to exclusively serve vegan food.

That’s not to say that plant-based foods haven’t had a presence in the burbs. In fact, for more than a decade, Lisle itself has been home to Veggie Fest, an annual festival that draws tens of thousands of visitors to celebrate all things vegetable. For years, Manna Organics was a vendor at Veggie Fest. It was there that Markus and Shanti were inspired to go into the restaurant business.

“Everyone who lived in the area was telling us: We need a vegan or vegetarian restaurant out here,” Markus says. “But nobody would do it. I asked the owners of a few places in downtown Chicago, like the Chicago Diner and the Veggie Grill, but no one was interested in coming to the suburbs.”

lisle

Markus, who is vegetarian, and Shanti, a fifth-generation vegan, were themselves frustrated with the lack of plant-based dining in the suburbs. Sure, a few restaurants were serving Beyond Burgers, and some of the markets were carrying plant-based options. But, if the couple wanted a restaurant that exclusively catered to their diet, they had to drive to the city.

As Markus and Shanti began talking to people at Veggie Fest and consulting with their neighbors, they began to suspect that there was a growing demand for plant-based dining in DuPage County. In the past, many restauranteurs assumed there wasn’t enough interest in the suburbs to support a vegan diner. But the Schramms suspected that DuPage was on the verge of a plant-based renaissance.

When their kids went off to college, the Schramms got to work, creating the kind of restaurant where they would love to dine. Manna Kitchen opened November 5th, 2019.

Just in time for the pandemic.

Manna Kitchen Lisle

A Pioneer in a Pandemic

For the first few months after opening their doors, things went pretty smoothly for Manna Kitchen. As the Schramms predicted, DuPage indeed had a craving for plant-based protein. Despite limited marketing, Manna Kitchen quickly cultivated a loyal customer base, and their dining rooms began to fill.

And then, in March, the Governor ordered a statewide shutdown of all indoor dining—among other things—in an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19. Within the first month, the Kitchen’s business dropped by 83 percent.

Under government orders, delivery and takeout were still permitted. At first, the Schramms attempted to deliver their own food. That didn’t work out. “We quickly learned that’s not our core competency,” Markus says. Later, the family signed up for third-party delivery services like GrubHub and DoorDash, and orders began flowing in. As the pandemic dragged on, a small but loyal customer base rallied around the business.

“We had people who would normally visit every other week; they were suddenly here two, three times a week, getting takeout and buying gift cards. That really helped.”

Thanks to a loyal customer base, smart decisions and the steady income from their commercial bakery, the Schramm family has kept Manna Kitchen afloat. Markus, whom we interviewed during Illinois’ second shutdown, in the early winter, says they were more-prepared for the second round—as prepared as any business can be.

Food Business Lisle

Food and the Future

Markus is German-American, but the meals at Manna Kitchen are inspired by comfort-food traditions from across the globe. Here, you’ll find Mongolian stir-fry, southern soul food, crispy crab cakes, spicy tacos, Greek salads, chorizo burritos—and, of course, a Schnitzel platter, served with German potato salad. Every bite of every dish is 100% vegan.

While the menu will obviously appeal to vegans and vegetarians, Markus says that it’s also for those of us who merely dabble in meatless dining. Maybe you’ve been reading about the environmental impact of meat production, or you just watched a documentary on animal welfare, or you’re simply feeling veggie-curious. Schramm says the restaurant’s menu appeals to taste buds of all varieties—even if you’re just looking for a good burger.

“We’re not here to change your lifestyle,” he says. “We’re just offering good food.”

While Markus’ is the first plant-based restaurant in the western suburbs, he suspects that it won’t be the last. He hopes that his own business will grow—enough that he can open one or two more locations—as he predicts that the market for plant-based foods is poised to skyrocket. If his predictions come true, Markus says that dozens of plant-based restaurants will open in the suburbs.

Today, Manna Kitchen is the only plant-based restaurant in the western suburbs, but it isn’t the only plant-based business. Just a few minutes away—also in Lisle—Greenleaf foods produces some of the nation’s leading plant-based brands, such as Lightlife® and Field Roast. (Their innovation center is in Lisle. Their headquarters is in nearby Elmhurst, also in DuPage.)

Manna Kitchen and Greenleaf foods represent the two sides of Lisle’s growth. On one end, small businesses like Manna are drawn to the Village’s small-town charm, natural beauty, excellent schools and welcoming community. Meanwhile, larger businesses and corporations are primarily attracted to Lisle’s strategic location.

Real Estate Lisle

“Our innovation center in Lisle is centrally located near our corporate office and O’Hare, making it convenient for our customers and associates to visit,” says Dan Curtin, President of Greenleaf Foods.

“I see Lisle as the hidden gem of the western suburbs, with its direct access off 355, as well as the Train Overpass reducing congestion in the downtown and allowing for higher traffic flow,” says Rob Salerno, the restauranteur responsible for Chicagoland’s Evviva! Bar & Eatery and R. Urban Wine Bar & Café restaurants. “With proper planning and execution, Lisle has great opportunities for developers, businesses and residents.”

“On behalf of our community, I’m excited to see what tomorrow brings,” says Lisle Mayor Christopher Pecak. “I see a bright future as we honor the past, build on what we’ve learned, and make space for new ideas and opportunities.”

What does the future have in store for Lisle, Manna Kitchen and the Schramm family? No one really knows. But it is worth noting that this small, brand-new business has managed to survive a pandemic and an economic shutdown, largely thanks to the support of the community. A good sign of things to come? Perhaps.

While Markus can’t see the future any more than the rest of us, he says that we all have a part to play.

“As the human family, I think we have an obligation not only to look after ourselves or those in our immediate family. Instead, look a little further out there. Look to your neighbors and say, ‘Hey, how are you doing? Is there anything I can do for you?’ If each of us does this on a small scale, that kindness will carry forward, and I think we’ll all be better off.”

Watch the interview with Markus Schramm below.

 

Lisle is a community in DuPage County, Illinois. Like Lisle, communities across DuPage have rallied to support local businesses, protect the health of residents and visitors, and even use science to fight back against COVID-19.

Learn more at ChooseDuPage.com/Ready

Flavorchem Opens New Center for Taste Innovation!

Flavorchem

Flavorchem, an established leader in the manufacturing of flavor, ingredient, and color solutions, is excited to announce the opening of the SRS Center for Taste Innovation at their Downers Grove campus.  The new 25,000 sq. ft., state-of-the-art facility is named after the late Salvatore R. Sprovieri, who founded the company in 1971 with his brother Phil, who maintains an active leadership role.

The focus of the architectural design was to create and deliver a boutique customer experience that encourages innovation, collaboration, and experimentation with trending foods, beverages, flavors, and ingredients. Every element within the space was intentionally designed to deliver the most premium sensory experience, from the three guest suites fully equipped with workstations and mini bars to the chic Toto toilets that provide the most intimate comforts. “Our goal was to create a space that would be a destination for clients. Customer experience was the focus of this project,” said Ross Sprovieri. “We want our customers to be part of the product development process.”

Upon entering the building, guests are immediately welcomed by an open marketplace environment equipped with snack stations and a coffee bar, modeled after the trendy food halls in urban centers around the US and globally. To support the commercialization of new products and technologies, the building boasts an R&D kitchen, four specialized application centers, a dedicated pilot plant with HTST, UHT, and aseptic processing and filling capabilities, a sensory room for blind and controlled testing, and premium guest suites to make sure our clients are comfortable during their visit.

“We have come a long way since making syrups in our family’s basement,” says Phil Sprovieri, Vice President of Sales, “My brother would be proud.”

About Flavorchem

Flavorchem creates flavor, ingredient and color solutions including a wide selection of organic certified flavors and extracts. Established in 1971, it is a privately held business whose customers include first-class brands well recognized throughout the world. A full-service operation with strategically located manufacturing facilities throughout the world, Flavorchem strives to provide its customers with innovative, high-quality products along with superior service and support.

As employees demand a new kind of workplace, businesses are turning to DuPage

Chicago Suburbs Real Estate

Many of us went into 2020 assuming it would be relatively similar to 2019—as far as the business climate, at least. Safe assumption, right? We thought so. But then 2020 happened, and the status quo was turned on its head for just about every industry.

Take commercial real estate. At the beginning of the year, downtown Chicago was the hot place to be. After all, if you wanted to attract the best talent, you had to maximize your investment in urban office space (and offset those costs with a high-density space, in theory). Many businesses assumed that the only way to attract the best talent—particularly millennials—was to build a shiny, tightly packed office in the heart of downtown.

Chicago

Was it expensive? Very. Did the skyrocketing taxes of Cook County make it hard to stay in business? Oh, yeah. Was the commute tiring for suburban workers? You bet. And were the offices just a little too crowded? Sure, but it’s not like everyone needed to be six feet apart at all times… right?

In hindsight, anyone can see the cracks in the former office space trends, long before they were pushed past their limit. The costs were too high; the high-density offices were too dense, even by pre-COVID-19 standards; and, as millennials grew older, they began looking to the suburbs. They had families to raise. They wanted more flexibility, shorter commutes, and better work-life balance.

As the pandemic emptied our offices, businesses began re-examining what their employees really wanted. The message was clear. Expensive build-outs and expanded amenities are nice. Sure. But what the workforce really wants is true balance between work, life, health and wellness: something altogether different than what many businesses were providing in 2019.

The difference? Now, businesses are listening.

In 2020, employees and employers alike have changed their definition of the ‘ideal’ workplace. Now, reversing the trend of the prior decade, many are turning away from the city and looking to the suburbs of DuPage County, where they are finding a place that meets both their immediate and long-term needs.

In no particular order, this is what DuPage offers businesses and employees:

Easier Commutes

Chicago Suburbs

For suburban workers, an office close to home marks an end to longer commutes. It also provides a place where they can actually get work done. (Turns out, it takes longer to complete projects when your 3-year-old is bursting into every Zoom meeting, demanding mac ‘n’ cheese NOW.)  Today, employees are demanding a workplace that’s close to home, but not at home. That’s why so many businesses are looking to DuPage, where they can provide a more accessible workplace for their suburban workforce.

Are we saying that you don’t need that downtown office? Not necessarily. For many businesses, it’s about finding a balance that suits both their downtown and suburban workforces. Do you really need that one giant, high-density downtown HQ? Or would you be better served by two regional offices: one downtown and one in DuPage? If your workforce is in both regions, the answer is clear.

Lower Cost of Doing Business

In DuPage, businesses get more for less. That’s because DuPage has significantly lower commercial property taxes than Cook County. Recently, that disparity was exacerbated by huge property tax increases in west and south suburban Cook.

In addition, DuPage has a AAA bond rating and a consistently balanced budget. When combined with DuPage’s lower taxes, that means predictability—one thing we all crave in 2021. 

A Healthier Workplace 

The pandemic enriched our definition of a ‘healthy’ workplace. Now, employees expect spaces designed for social distancing and other safety measures, as well as opportunities to go for lunchtime walks, connect with nature and even work outside.

Many of us got outside more than usual in 2020. Now, we want that to be part of our daily lives—even when we’re at the office.

This is another place where DuPage excels. With more greenspace—and more space than downtown, in general, as businesses can afford lower-density office spaces in the suburbs—many DuPage workplaces are designed first and foremost for employees’ health, wellness and desire for community. You can view some of our favorites here.

More Flexibility  

Chicago Suburbs Real Estate

In 2020, we discovered that we’re only certain about one thing: No one knows what the future holds.

Understandably, many businesses aren’t ready to make a long-term commitment. We get it. That’s why so many DuPage offices offer flexible, short-term leases. Some even offer fully furnished workplaces, so businesses can plug in and get started immediately. As a business owner, you don’t have to wait to provide your employees with a better workplace—you can start today.

Interested in a new workplace solution for your suburban workforce? Learn more about doing business in DuPage.

College of DuPage is training hundreds of contact tracers, meeting an urgent public health need while providing employment

Contact Tracers

When we think of the fight against COVID-19, we tend to think of doctors, nurses, scientists and other frontline workers. But there’s a growing army of individuals—largely consisting of retirees, medical students and those who were recently unemployed—fighting the pandemic from behind the scenes.

Known as “contact tracers,” these trained workers help limit the spread of COVID-19. And now, thanks to the hard work of several individuals and a collaboration amongst local institutions, an innovative new program at the College of DuPage is preparing hundreds for careers in contact tracing.

When Lori Gache-Garcia stepped into her role as Program Manager at the College of DuPage, she never imagined that her first year would be defined by a pandemic. And then—over the next three weeks—COVID-19 swept across the nation, Illinois ordered residents to shelter-in-place, and the College sent faculty home.

It wasn’t the beginning she expected.

But Lori didn’t panic. Instead, she got to work.

As the nation faced a public health emergency and an unemployment crisis, the College of DuPage responded on both fronts—introducing a new course designed to train people for careers fighting the pandemic. Working from her home computer, Lori collaborated with College staff and local organizations like the DuPage County Health Department to develop the contact-tracing program.

As a contact tracer, your job is to track COVID-19 and limit its spread. The work is entirely remote—you spend a lot of time on the phone with people who have been exposed to the virus, encouraging them to quarantine and identifying others with whom they may have come into contact.

Contact tracers are often compared to detectives. There is some scientific sleuthing involved, as you follow a trail of evidence, gather clues, conduct interviews and piece together a bigger picture. But contact tracers are often less like detectives and more like counselors, broaching uncomfortable subjects while providing valuable guidance and information.

The best contact tracers are often the most personable and empathetic people.

Contact Tracers

To create an effective contact-tracing program, the College of DuPage collaborated with the DuPage County Health Department. The Health Department employs numerous contact-tracers, so they knew exactly what skills were needed. With their guidance, College staff tailored the curriculum to focus on these key skills.

“Right off the bat, the Health Department told us they wanted soft skills, like customer service,” Lori says. “As a contact tracer, there are a lot of phone conversations, and these conversations are very sensitive. With that in mind, we incorporated communication skills into the curriculum. We actually have a script that students learn—it’s part of the final exam.”

The program that Lori developed—with curriculum designed by COD Surgical Technology Professor Kathy Cabai—covers a wide range of “hard” and “soft” skills at the core of contact tracing: from building the student’s knowledge of infectious diseases, to learning how to build rapport with cases and accounting for cultural sensitivities.

The program consists of four modules over four weeks. It’s entirely online; instructors are available to answer questions; and students largely determine the pace over the course of each week.

For those who pass the final exam, the prospects of landing a career are good. There’s no guarantee of employment, but contact tracers are in high demand. Students are often employed by public or private institutions shortly after graduating. Many are employed by the DuPage County Health Department, and they find themselves fighting COVID-19 within their own community.

To date, more than 400 students have enrolled.

Contact Tracers

While many of us are learning about contact tracing for the first time, it isn’t a novel concept. Tracing has been used to fight a variety of infectious diseases, from the 1918 Flu Pandemic to the 2014 Ebola outbreak. In tandem with other measures—like masks, social distancing and vaccines—contact tracing has been used to reduce the spread of diseases and, in certain cases, eradicate them.

Dr. Sanjeeb Khatua, Executive Vice President and Chief Physician Executive at Edward-Elmhurst Health, is the Incident Commander for the organization’s COVID-19 response. He says that contact tracing is a critical component of any community’s response to the pandemic—and it also benefits individuals. 

“Contact tracing allows us to identify individuals who have COVID-19 and their contacts, so we can warn them and inform them,” he says. “The more we’re able to do that, the better it’s going to be for all of us. The less community spread, the less chance you have of actually getting COVID-19.”

And while contact-tracing is nothing new, the demand for contact tracers in 2020 has skyrocketed.

“The urgency and the sheer number of contact tracers the country needed was incredible,” Lori says. “When the need arose, we recognized that we, the College, needed to create a short-term training program to teach people the skills and knowledge they need. And we had to create it quickly.”

“In a matter of weeks, Lori worked with full-time faculty to develop this wonderful program,” says Joe Cassidy, Assistant Vice President of Economic Development and Dean of Continuing Education and Public Services at COD. “This is a great example of how we can flex as a college to meet an urgent need. It’s also a perfect example of what can happen when we collaborate on-campus and off-campus, with partners like DuPage County Health.”

Contact Tracers

You don’t have to be a scientist or a public-health expert to become a contact tracer. To enroll in the College of DuPage program, all you need is a high school diploma (or equivalent) and a computer.

Contact tracers are a diverse group, consisting of many demographics. COD’s program has seen students ages 18 to 72 (the 72-year-old recently graduated and was hired soon after). And while students come from all walks of life, many fall into one of three categories: retirees, college-aged students or those who were recently unemployed.

For retirees, becoming a contact tracer is the perfect way to fight back against the pandemic. It’s entirely remote, so you don’t have to put your own health at risk. It can also be a good way to get some much-needed socialization.

For college students interested in the medical industry, contact tracing is a good way to gain some real-world experience in the world of public health. For those who were recently unemployed, a career as a contact tracer is a win-win. The pay is good—contact tracers make up to $28/hour—and the work is fulfilling.

And while there may be no “typical” contact tracer, Lori says the majority are drawn to the program simply from a desire to help their community.

“Not surprisingly, they tend to be the most diligent students,” she says.

Interested in becoming a contact tracer? To enroll in the College of DuPage program, you must be 18 years or older, have a high-school diploma or equivalent, and have access to a computer. The online program consists of four modules over four weeks, and the cost is $279. The next course is January 25-February 21. Learn more or register here.

DuPage County Announces a New Drive-Thru COVID-19 Testing Site

DuPage COVID Testing

In response to the exponential spread of COVID-19 cases and the increased need for testing, the DuPage County Health Department is announcing the addition of a second community-based drive-thru testing site to provide additional testing resources in DuPage
County.

The additional COVID-19 testing site will be located at the Odeum Expo Center (1033 N Villa Avenue) in Villa Park, Illinois, and will open on Monday, Nov. 23. The week of Thanksgiving the site will be operational Monday, Nov. 23 through Wednesday, Nov. 25 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., or until the daily test capacity of 600 tests is completed each day. The week of Nov. 29, the site will operate from Sunday, Nov. 29 through Friday, Dec. 4 with the same hours and test capacity.

Anyone can be tested, and no appointment, doctor referral, or insurance is required. Visitors are encouraged to pre-register at testdirectly.com/dupage, but pre-registration does not guarantee testing or a place in line for that day. For more information about how to prepare before your visit and what to expect, visit www.dupagehealth.org/covid19testing.

Additionally, DCHD has collaborated with the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to expand mobile testing opportunities by
partnering with local municipal leaders. The mobile test sites rotate throughout the county to increase access to testing for residents. “While testing is a crucial component of DCHD’s COVID-19 response, we must remember that it is only one part of the overall strategy to slow the spread of this virus. Even more important than identifying cases and their close contacts, is preventing new cases from occurring,” said Karen Ayala, Executive Director of DuPage County Health Department.

The Health Department continues to encourage residents to protect themselves and their families by staying home as much as possible, avoiding all non-essential travel, and not gathering with people from outside of their household. In addition, everyone is reminded to practice the 3Ws, to wear a mask, watch your distance, and wash your hands to slow the spread of COVID-19.

For additional COVID-19 information and resources, visit the DCHD website at www.dupagehealth.org/covid19.

Rebuild Illinois Wet Lab Capital Program

Wet Lab

$9 million Notice of Funding Opportunity to boost development of wet labs across Illinois

Illinois is a global leader in the life sciences industry, featuring some of the top research hospitals and chemical manufacturers in the country.

Wet labs, or laboratories with specialized ventilation and utility connections to allow for research of chemicals and materials, are critical for life sciences innovation to thrive but require large amounts of physical space and are costly to build. Available wet lab space is scarce throughout Illinois, which limits the competitiveness of the state’s life sciences sector, despite our other advantages.

This grant will encourage the development of wet lab space that will be multi-tenant shared space available to incubators, corporations, university researchers, and start-ups. Grant funds will be awarded on a competitive basis to fund the construction or renovation of facilities that house wet lab space and promote the growth of life sciences in Illinois.

On November 18, 2020 at 11:00am, DCEO will be conducting a Wet Lab Capital Program Technical Assistance Webinar which you can register for here

For more information about the program, click here

Newest ComEd Program Provides Bill Assistance to Struggling Small Businesses During Pandemic

ComEd

Small-Business Assistance Programs offers one-time grants and flexible payment options

With many restaurants, bars, retailers and other small businesses across northern Illinois struggling to stay open during the COVID-19 pandemic, ComEd announced a new bill-assistance program to help eligible small businesses facing financial difficulties.


“Small and family-owned businesses are the backbone of our communities. When they struggle, our neighborhoods struggle.” said ComEd CEO Joe Dominguez. “By offering a new bill-assistance option targeting small and family-owned businesses, we hope to do our part to ensure that the businesses that we all love and depend upon continue to be a part of our lives.”


ComEd’s Small Business Assistance Program provides eligible small-business customers that are past due on their energy bills with a one-time grant equal to 30 percent of their total ComEd balance (up to $1,000) for a limited time. Customers whose electric service has not been disconnected can then set up their remaining balance due on a payment plan of up to six months.


Small-business customers can visit ComEd.com/SmallBizAssistance or call 1-877-4-COMED-1 (1-877-426-6331) to learn more or apply for the Small Business Assistance Program.


Earlier this week, ComEd announced its new Helping Hand program to provide more immediate aid to eligible residential customers most in need during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. For a limited time, this financial-assistance program provides an additional one-time grant of up to $300 to help reduce past-due balances of income-eligible customers.


Assistance through the Helping Hand program is administered directly through ComEd, which expedites the verification process so that customers can receive grants more quickly. Residential customers can apply for Helping Hand grants at ComEd.com/PaymentAssistance.


Assistance Options to Help Residential Customers

Helping Hand and the Small Business Assistance Program are the latest in a number of assistance options ComEd has developed since the pandemic to help customers, including a $18 million bill-payment assistance program for residential customers announced earlier this summer.


ComEd has continued the suspension of service disconnections for low-income customers and those who express a financial hardship through March 31, 2021. For other customers, it’s important that they continue to stay current to avoid higher past-due balances into the spring that will be harder to address.
ComEd’s bill-assistance programs also include flexible payment options, financial assistance for past-due balances and usage alerts for current bills. Any customer who is experiencing a hardship or difficulty with their electric bill should call ComEd immediately at 1-800-334-7661 (1-800-EDISON-1), Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to learn more and enroll in a program.


ComEd also offers usage alerts and energy-management tips to help customers manage energy use to save money now and on future energy bills. For information, visit ComEd.com/OnlineTools.