This DuPage Business is Making a More Sustainable World, One Drop at a Time

When we think of sustainability, we sometimes imagine a tug-of-war between economic and environmental interests—a zero-sum game, with profits and businesses on one side and ecosystems and communities on the other.

That’s just the way it is, right?

Fortunately, that’s not the case.

In fact, many businesses and communities across the globe—and right here in DuPage—are finding that the opposite is true.

As events like World Environment Day (June 5th, 2022) remind us, there are billions of planets in our galaxy, but only one Earth. Earth can’t be replaced, and it’s in all of our best interests to be good stewards of this one-of-a-kind planet. Rather than a competition, sustainability can and must be a collaborative effort that includes ecosystems, businesses and communities.

To celebrate World Environment Day and collaborative sustainability, let’s head to DuPage County and take a closer look at one business that’s using smart science and advanced technology to create a positive future—one drop at a time.

Welcome to Water University

Water University Nalco Water

The center of the water universe just might be a one-of-a-kind ‘school’ in Naperville, Illinois.

This is Water University. Created by Nalco Water, an Ecolab company, in 2017, and located on the campus of the company’s Ecolab Industrial headquarters, the facility is a high-tech learning environment where Nalco Water customers and associates educate themselves on state-of-the-art technologies.

At this university, you don’t get degrees. However, as a business owner, engineer, technician, or official, you can learn best practices that help you minimize water usage, maximize the potential of the water you do use, lower your costs, and make your operations more efficient. This is the place where environmental stewardship meets smart business practices.

The moment you step into Water University, your education begins. As a ‘student,’ one of the first places you encounter is the Customer Experience Center. A futuristic installation that would feel right at home in Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry, the Customer Experience Center teaches users about the role of water in business, and outlines the company’s key technologies and water innovations.

But that’s only the beginning. As you head deeper into Water University, the real, hands-on learning begins.

First, there’s the Training Facility. Here, you can run simulations of real-life challenges using interactive software, then experiment with various programs and technologies in the wet lab.

Then there’s an area dedicated to the Ecolab Global Intelligence Center, which provides a live link to a remote customer service team. Here, you can engage with more than 130 service professionals working 24/7 to identify and resolve issues with your water technology.

Of course, no university would be complete without a lecture hall. At Water University’s brand-new auditorium, which seats more than 100 guests, associates and customers can attend presentations, panel discussions and collaborative training sessions on water technology.

Beneath the Surface

Underlying the sleek technology and immersive experiences of Water University is a message and a mission.

The message? Smart business practices and sustainability are not at odds; in fact, they’re in sync.

Water University helps customers envision the potential of responsible water usage. It helps them visualize how they can shift their water management from a wasteful linear model—in which operations intake water, use it, then discharge it—to a circular model, in which businesses reduce, reuse and recycle their water.

Using immersive experiences, the facility helps key decision-makers not only learn but see, feel and understand how the right technology can help them practice more sustainable water management—and how that can be good for both the environment and their bottom line.

The mission of Water University is deeply rooted in the company’s history. Nalco Water is owned by Ecolab, a global leader in water, hygiene and infection-prevention solutions. Founded nearly a century ago, Ecolab began as a one-product, one-employee business. In the 1970s, as the environmental movement took off, the company emerged as a leader in the sustainability space. Today, they provide technologies, services and solutions that help customers around the world achieve both their business and sustainability goals. Their most recent effort has been to champion 2030 goals related to water, climate, food and health (check out this video to learn more.)

At the center of Ecolab’s mission is water. This year alone, the company’s technologies have helped save more than 43 billion gallons of it, the equivalent of the annual drinking needs of 4.4 billion people.

And that’s a very, very good thing. Right now, our world needs sustainable water solutions more than ever.

Water World

Water shapes our lives in ways we see and ways we don’t.

Some are obvious. There is the water we drink and bathe in, the water that cleans our dishes, washes our clothes, and fills our pools, lakes and rivers.

But much of the water that flows through our lives is invisible to the average person.

Take this blog, for instance. Water is a key ingredient in nearly all manufacturing processes; countless gallons of it were used to build the device on which you’re reading this. Countless more were used when shipping it to you, and there’s a good chance that at least some of the electricity powering your device consumes additional water, directly or indirectly.

Even the data itself, the raw information that composes the words you’re reading and the images you’re seeing, consumes water. All this info—and so much more—is stored in data centers. Data centers, the foundation of our increasingly digitized world, use immense volumes of water to prevent their servers from overheating. They offer a glimpse at one of the many roles of water in our future.

Water is essential for growing our food, manufacturing our goods, and keeping our businesses and communities running. In the U.S., 45 percent of freshwater withdrawals are used for thermoelectric power, 32 percent for irrigation (mostly agriculture), 12 percent for public supply, and five percent for self-supplied industrial operations.

But don’t be fooled: Just because water is everywhere doesn’t mean it is unlimited or even abundant.

In fact, less than one percent of the Earth’s water is available for human use. The rest consists of saltwater in oceans, freshwater frozen in polar ice caps, and water that is otherwise inaccessible to humans.

Despite how essential our water supply is to every aspect of our lives—and despite how limited we know this natural resource is—humans, historically, haven’t been good stewards of it.  

In addition to pollution, which has damaged ecosystems within and beyond our natural waterways, our insatiable thirst for water has brought us to an impasse; by 2030, demand for freshwater is expected to exceed supply by 56 percent. (Until recently, that number was 40 percent. However, in 2020, the World Resources Institute announced that the water crisis had been exacerbated from 40 to 56 percent.)

Meanwhile, less than 10 percent of freshwater in the U.S. is reused, and only three percent of wastewater across the globe is recycled. Our current approach is simply unsustainable. Populations are rising and demand for water is increasing; at the same time, the supply of water is the same as ever. We’re in a rocket ship, and we’re flying towards a ceiling.

What happens when we hit the ceiling? Already, we can see the consequences of our strain on the water supply. For most people, that means higher water prices and seasonal watering restrictions. For businesses, that means goods are more expensive to produce, leading to higher prices for consumers and stagnation across the economy.

For the environment, that means disruptions to numerous ecosystems. As water tables dip, concentrations of pollutants rise, disrupting food chains and sending shockwaves through animal populations and onto human communities. 

Ripple Effects

sustainability dupage

There’s a growing trend among environmental activists, businesses and communities to think differently about sustainability. And when you look at the urgency of the crisis and the success of Ecolab and Nalco Water’s business model, it’s easy to see why.

This trend hinges on an updated definition of sustainability, one that focuses on three pillars.

#1: Environmental Sustainability: This is all about good environmental stewardship—responsibly managing natural resources, respecting the natural world, and protecting ecosystems. When most people think of sustainability, they think only of this pillar. But this definition includes two more.

#2: Economic Sustainability: This refers to practices that support long-term economic health and enable businesses to succeed while doing good for people and the planet.

#3: Social Sustainability: This final pillar refers to practices that protect people and preserve our society. That includes ensuring that everyone has access to the basics: clean water, adequate food, quality education, healthcare and shelter, as well as human rights. It extends to the workforce, a community that practices social sustainability protects their workers from exploitation and discrimination.

As a society, we debate these three pillars all the time, often separating them, pitting them against one another, and arguing over which pillars are more important. However, by grouping them under one banner, the banner of sustainability, we can see that they are inseparable.

Not only do efforts to sustain the environment contribute to economic and social sustainability, and vice versa—you really can’t have one without the other. If we let the environment waste away, our quality of life will suffer, as will our businesses and our social fabric. If we ignore social justice, our workforce and consumers will be unhealthy, our economy will stagnate, and we will lack the social cohesion to mobilize for sustainability. Finally, if we ignore economic sustainability, we won’t have the resources to pursue our other goals. Each pillar is essential to the others.

Ecolab demonstrates how businesses and communities can pursue all three goals at once.

By improving their customers’ water management practices, they help these businesses reduce costs, protect the environment and improve their business’ public image. Meanwhile, as Ecolab has made the first two pillars core to their business model, the third is just as important to their business and culture. Recently, they have enriched their company’s diversity and inclusion practices, focusing on gender, racial and ethnic equity among their employees and serving as a role model for other businesses.

Ecolab inspires us. They show us how, rather than conflicting with one another, the three pillars of sustainability can together be the bedrock of successful businesses and strong communities.

We all share one Earth. We all share one future. And while each of us has our own perspectives, goals and abilities, creating a more sustainable world is one thing that can—and must—bring us all together.

Thank you for reading! For incentives, information and other resources for DuPage businesses practicing sustainability, start here.


Incentives & Resources for Sustainable Development

On April 28, 2022, Choose DuPage and the DuPage County Environmental Division hosted a Zoom & Learn as part of an ongoing, Sustainable DuPage program series. In the webinar, we learned about the incentives and resources available for energy efficiency, HVAC improvements, renewable energy, and other sustainable development projects. 


AnnaMaria Kowalik, Senior Vice President, Director of Business Development
The Illinois Energy Conservation Authority NFP

Lynette Ng, Outreach Manager, C&I Programs
Resource Innovations, ComEd

Dave Surina, Community Affairs Manager
Nicor Gas

Mike King, Director Energy Efficiency Program Operations
Nicor Gas

View Speaker Bios

View Webinar

Sustainable DuPage Program Series

In honor of Earth Month 2022 (April), Choose DuPage and the DuPage County Environmental Division have partnered to host a series of sustainability-focused events. Featuring fresh topics and guest speakers every Thursday in April, this series covers topics at the intersection of business, economic development, life, and sustainability, while focusing on the DuPage region. By bringing together local thought-leaders and influential members of the community, we hope to spark new connections and fresh thinking as we all work toward a brighter future—for our planet and for DuPage.

Sustainable DuPage

DuPage County to Host Inaugural Community Arts Festival

DuPage Community Arts Festival

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sustainability in Commercial Construction

On April 14, 2022, Choose DuPage and the DuPage County Environmental Division hosted a Zoom & Learn as part of an ongoing, Sustainable DuPage program series. In the webinar, we learned best practices for reducing your environmental footprint in commercial construction and renovation projects.


John Mlade, LFA, WELL Faculty, LEED Fellow,
Director, Sustainable & Healthy Environments
Wight & Company

John Sliwicki, Senior Vice President, Materials Recovery Facilities

Katie Kaluzny, Associate Director
Illinois Green Alliance

View Speaker Bios

View the Webinar

Sustainable DuPage Program Series

In honor of Earth Month 2022 (April), Choose DuPage and the DuPage County Environmental Division have partnered to host a series of sustainability-focused events. Featuring fresh topics and guest speakers every Thursday in April, this series covers topics at the intersection of business, economic development, life, and sustainability, while focusing on the DuPage region. By bringing together local thought-leaders and influential members of the community, we hope to spark new connections and fresh thinking as we all work toward a brighter future—for our planet and for DuPage.

Sustainable DuPage

Giving DuPage Days

Giving DuPage Days is a virtual community fundraiser hosted by Giving DuPage. For 5 days in May, an entire county will come together to send a resounding message of HOPE to our local nonprofit community. Community organizations continue to serve our residents during the many challenges we face today. This is our opportunity to honor and support their work!

We’re inviting everyone to join us for Giving DuPage Days, an online fundraiser, with a goal to raise over $550,000 for over 95 local nonprofit organizations serving DuPage County.

From May 2-6, we will connect individuals, families, businesses, schools, community & faith groups to celebrate and create awareness for participating charities. Everyone is welcome and donors of all ages can participate! In the past 2 years, over 4,600 amazing donors have helped to raise $622,072 for so many worthy nonprofit causes!

Join us this year to show how GENEROSITY CHANGES EVERYTHING and help local charities raise unrestricted funds in support of their mission and critical programs!

Click here to learn more

Nexdigm Expands its Global Presence with New Office in DuPage County

1211 W 22nd Street Oak Brook

The Consul General of India, State of Illinois, and Choose DuPage joined Nexdigm to announce the company’s first North American office in Oak Brook, Illinois. Nexdigm is an employee-owned, privately held, independent global organization that helps companies across geographies meet the needs of a dynamic business environment in professional and business services. Nexdigm currently serves hundreds of US business clients.  

Speaking on the occasion from his Oak Brook office, Guljit Singh, Group Executive Chairman, said, “Our expansion is not limited. With this office and our new offices in Poland and UAE, we hope to increase collaboration on a global scale. It will help our customers choose between onsite and offsite services per their requirements. Additionally, we can now service our clients round the clock.”

For Nexdigm, this is a multimillion-dollar investment in the region and will create several high-paying jobs. This location will initially support several key senior advisers situated in North America who play a significant role in the management and functioning of the company. In addition, 12 new executives and their teams will serve a wide range of industries, with a specific focus in healthcare, food processing, banking and financial sectors. Over the last decade, the company has grown on many continents, employing over 1,300 people in the US, India, UAE, Poland, and Japan, providing transnational support to numerous clients through their 12 offices worldwide.

The Oak Brook office grand opening was attended by several government dignitaries along with senior leaders of prominent multinationals and industry associations.


“Over the past 18 months, I’ve gotten to know Nexdigm, and we have organized several activities with them focusing on specific sectors and areas where we can collaborate. They have, of course, a great understanding of India and the US markets, and I’m really excited that they now have a physical presence in the US, and that too in the Chicago area, the heart of the US mid-west, an area that is under my jurisdiction,” said Amit Kumar, Consul General of India in Chicago.

“We congratulate Nexdigm on choosing Illinois for their first U.S. location,” said Margo Markopoulos, Director of Office of Trade at the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. “Illinois continues to welcome new companies to our state, thanks to our location, diverse industries, and skilled workforce. Nexdigm joins over 2,000 foreign-based companies that have located in Illinois, and who employ over 300,000 Illinoisans. The Illinois Department of Commerce is excited to work with Nexdigm as they continue to grow their footprint, right here in Illinois.”

“DuPage County and Choose DuPage is thrilled to welcome Nexdigm to Oak Brook, Illinois,” said Greg Bedalov, President and CEO of Choose DuPage. “Nexdigm’s choice of DuPage County and Oak Brook for its first North American offices signifies a tremendous commitment to our region. We are dedicated to working with Nexdigm to assure its long-term success and extremely grateful for Nexdigm’s investment in DuPage County. The new office marks a significant milestone in Nexdigm’s journey.”

For current and future opportunities, and more information, visit

About Nexdigm

Nexdigm is an employee-owned, independent, global organization serving clients from more than 50 countries. Harnessing our multifunctional and digital capabilities across Business Services and Professional Services, we provide our customers, both listed and privately held firms, with integrated solutions navigating complex challenges. Nexdigm resonates with our plunge into a new paradigm of business; it is our commitment to Think Next.


Pair of Industrial Leases in Glendale Heights Totals Over 300K SF

Glendale Heights Industrial Lease

Lee & Associates, the largest broker-owned commercial real estate firm in North America, has closed a pair of industrial lease transactions totaling 311,444 square feet in Glendale Heights, Ill. 

Jeff Janda, SIOR and Michael Plumb, Principals at Lee & Associates’ Illinois office, represented owner Link Logistics on two leases at neighboring buildings 101 & 500 Regency Drive.

101 Regency Drive, a 150,784-square-foot building, was leased to United Business Mail. The tenant was represented by Steve Kohn with Avison Young.

500 Regency Drive, a 160,660-square-foot building, was leased to a hardware company, represented by Chris Lydon and Fort Richardson with Avison Young.  

About Lee & Associates

Lee & Associates offers an array of real estate services tailored to meet the needs of the company’s clients, including commercial real estate brokerage, integrated services, and construction services. Established in 1979, Lee & Associates is now an international firm with offices throughout the United States and Canada. For the latest news from Lee & Associates, visit


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excel in Automation

Advanced manufacturing dupage

Attention Advanced Manufacturing Companies in DuPage: Would you like to see how you measure up against your peers? 

Choose DuPage has partnered with the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center (IMEC) to implement a one-time program for manufacturing companies called Excel In Automation. The purpose of this program is to help advanced manufacturing companies in DuPage County assess their automation and advanced manufacturing performance and how they measure up against their manufacturing peers.

Participants will receive a benchmarking report and learn about the next steps they can take toward enterprise excellence based on what other manufacturers are doing. There is no cost to participate, a limited time commitment, and lots of valuable information for your company.

In order to participate, the manufacturing company must follow three steps:
  1. Click here to register for Excel in Automation
  2. Complete the Excel in Automation online self-assessment tool within 10 days of receiving the assessment link
  3. Participate in a virtual workshop on Wednesday, March 23, 2022 from 10:00am – 12:00pm
Workshop agenda:
  • Summary of aggregated results from the assessment will be presented
  • Participate in a facilitated discussion tailored to the results of the assessment
  • Ask questions of Advanced Manufacturing Technology specialists
  • Learn from other manufacturers about best practices and ideas for implementation
  • Receive a benchmarking report

Register for Excel in Automation


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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