Choose DuPage Making a Difference

By: John R. Quigley, President and CEO of the Elmhurst Chamber of Commerce. While the state of Illinois continues to struggle in the field of economic development, DuPage County has developed a public/private alliance that, since its creation a decade ago, has played a vital role in business growth and job creation across 38 municipalities.
 As our County’s Economic Development Alliance, Choose DuPage’s mission is to:
  • Support local municipal economic development initiatives;
  • Grow, retain and attract businesses; and
  • Address policy issues critical to the needs of business.
In Elmhurst, Choose DuPage partners with both the city’s Economic Development Commission on its annual Commercial Real Estate Forum and the Elmhurst Chamber of Commerce & Industry on business legislation initiatives before the Illinois General Assembly. According to Choose DuPage’s recently-released 2104 Annual Report (view online here), nearly 38,000 new businesses opened countywide last year, making the ninth consecutive year of growth since the Alliance began tracking numbers in 2006. Our County’s 2014 industrial vacancy rate of 5.5 percent is its lowest since before 2006 and the lowest in the 14-county region (including Northwest Indiana and Southeast Wisconsin) for the second year in a row, while the Class A office vacancy rate of 16.5 percent is DuPage’s lowest since 2008. In last year’s Fourth Quarter alone, some 1.1 million square feet of office space was absorbed. With 118 new projects in 2014, DuPage ranked second only to Cook County (385) in the region. Criteria for new projects included minimums of $1 million invested, 20,000 square feet of expansion and 50 new jobs, plus headquarters facility and Choose DuPage involvement. Our county’s total included 29 of 127 manufacturing projects, 22 of 65 projects in warehousing and distribution, 15 of 102 business services projects and 14 of 74 retail projects. The region’s 657 projects created or retained some 39,000 jobs and investments of $6.8 billion. With the county’s private sector employment growing to nearly 600,000 jobs in 2014, the unemployment rate fell to slightly more than 4 percent, the lowest percentage since 2007. That rate also ranked both lowest in the region and among the lowest in the state. At $1.3 million, 2014 sales tax receipts increased for the sixth consecutive year and surpassed pre-recession numbers for the third year in a row. Using Choose DuPage as a model, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner wants to restructure the state’s Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity (DCEO), now directed by Rauner appointee Jim Schultz, into just such a public/private partnership. Ironically, Rauner recently appointed Choose DuPage President/CEO Greg Bedalov as the Illinois Tollway Authority’s new executive director.