Author: Lake County Partners

Lake County Celebrates Increases in Population, Businesses and GDP

The new year kicked off with fantastic economic news, presented by World Business Chicago (WBC) to Lake County Partners’ Municipal Economic Development Group at its first meeting of the year.

The highly engaged group, comprised of City Managers and senior staff from municipalities across Lake County, has been meeting quarterly for over eight years to get insights into the latest economic development trends and access to tools that serve the needs of the county’s diverse communities. The meeting series is hosted by Libertyville Bank & Trust, in the family of the Wintrust Community Banks.

“Wintrust Community Bank serves the entire Chicago metro region and extends into southern Wisconsin and northwest Indiana. Our priority is supporting local communities by engaging in local organizations and events,” said Libertyville Bank & Trust Chief Executive Officer and Lake County Partners Board of Governors Vice Chair Steve Madden. “It is important for us to develop and strengthen relationships with the very leaders that make Lake County so vibrant. This municipal meeting forum is a perfect fit because we can share our extensive financial expertise in a format that also relays the personal touch of a small institution.”

Other economic indicators also paint a picture of solid economic health in Lake County. In just three years—from 2018 to 2021—Lake County’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew 9.6%, reaching $69.7 billion. Real GDP was also up 1.1% in the same time frame. The GDP metric is considered the gold standard measure of overall economic activity because it accounts for the value of the final goods and services produced in an area.

The GDP increase is inextricably linked with the growth of local businesses—an area where Lake County once again shines. As of Q2 2022, Lake County had 20,278 businesses, which exceeds pre-pandemic levels. As a result, demand for labor continues to increase. The number of job postings went up 36% between 2019 and 2022. Growth was particularly prominent in in-demand fields such as nursing, software development, retail and customer service. Importantly, these are high-quality jobs with a median advertised hourly salary of $21.02.

“The tight labor market has resulted in a very low unemployment rate of 4.1% which is close to pre-pandemic levels and greatly improved from the 14.2% rate experienced at the peak of COVID,” said LCP’s Director of Strategy and Intelligence Bethany Williams. “Lake County’s key industries of life science, advanced manufacturing, healthcare and professional and technical services will continue to thrive, and we expect to see outputs grow. This means that we must engage all of our human resources, which is why LCP’s strategy is so laser-focused on talent development and business outreach.”

“Lake County is a great model of economic development. The economy is in excellent shape, and the entire Chicagoland region is poised for future growth,” said WBC Regional Director of Research Hannah Loftus. “Economic projections indicate that you can expect to see a 21.8% increase in metro area GDP by 2027, and Lake County will enjoy another 2.8% uptick in jobs in that same time frame. Top sub-industries projected to grow include company management, restaurants, education, advanced manufacturing, child care and computer systems design. All told, those will help generate over 10,000 new jobs. LCP’s strategic business support, coupled with the power of the new Greater Chicagoland Regional Partnership, will sustain the forward momentum.”

Economic growth is certain to be bolstered by local spending power. In 2022, consumer spending totaled $20.8 billion, which made the local business ecosystem the third largest by county in the entire state of Illinois, and roughly 9% of the entire metro area. This figure is expected to go up, with forecasts projecting an additional 14.8% spend over the next five years.

The year was also record-breaking for Chicagoland’s growth capital ecosystem, with $18.38 billion in raised—including $10.36 billion in venture capital and $8.02 billion in private equity. This figure has continued to climb over the past several years, having grown 14.28 billion over the last four years alone.

Growth capital investment has been particularly powerful in fueling many of the same key industries that support Lake County’s economy—manufacturing, life sciences, information technology, finance, consumer and business products, healthcare, energy, transportation, distribution and logistics. In 2022, Lake County companies raised $89.79 million in growth capital through just 15 deals in these areas.

This has had favorable implications for commercial real estate, with Lake County seeing more than 20 investments in spaces of 20,000 sq. ft. or more in 2022. As a result, the industrial market is particularly tight; vacancy remains at 3.59% – a historic low. Last year, Lake County saw a net absorption of 908,035 sq. ft. of industrial space, and there is another 367,750 sq. ft. under construction through big, state-of-the-art projects like the Hawthorn Mall redevelopment and the Panattoni development in Vernon Hills and the Bridge Point Development in Mundelein. Overall, Lake County’s real estate costs remain competitive in the metro area.

“The upbeat data shared by World Business Chicago at the recent municipal meeting is completely in line with what we are seeing in Vernon Hills and more broadly across the county,” said Jon Petrillo, Vernon Hills’ Assistant Village Manager. “There has been tremendous investment, and our economy continues to thrive. In Lake County, you’ll find leaders who are willing to work with businesses and open to innovative development that strategically lays the groundwork for future growth.”


We can help your business get established and grow in Lake County, Illinois. Connect with us here to tap into our resources, connections and twenty-five years of experience driving the economy forward.

How Lake County is Building the Workforce of Tomorrow, Today

This editorial was authored by Lake County Partners, and featured in the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association’s Illinois Manufacturer First Quarter 2023 Publication.

As one of Illinois’ largest industry sectors, manufacturing is a pillar of the state’s economy. It supports nearly 30% of all jobs in Illinois, and has an even greater share in Lake County where local production is dominated by pharmaceuticals, plastic products and medical equipment thanks to the presence of globally-recognized leaders like Abbott, AbbVie, AkzoNobel and Baxter. Those giants are in good company among high-performers like Novelis, Echo, HydraForce, Laser Precision, Yaskawa, Zebra and many others.

Manufacturing employs nearly 100,000 in Lake County, which is among the highest concentrations in the state. An impressive one in every seven Lake County jobs is now in manufacturing. Locally, the industry’s labor force has grown 3.6% over the last year alone, representing 2,200 new workers. The increased employment base will go a long way towards supporting manufacturing businesses in Lake County, but we cannot rest on our laurels if we wish to stoke the growth.

Illinois Manufacturers’ Association (IMA) projections indicate that some manufacturing occupations could see up to a 20% increase in employment growth over the next six years. To meet the demand for talent, Lake County leaders have partnered on cutting-edge solutions to foster growth and workforce development. Collectively, the following five initiatives serve as a model that other communities can use to support the surge in manufacturing and meet the needs that accompany such a tremendous uptick in production:

1. Form Innovative Partnerships to Develop Talent

Through our close relationships with local manufacturers, we know that workforce is often the biggest asset or impediment to growth. For this reason, Lake County Partners has spearheaded a partnership with the College of Lake County, Lake County Workforce Development, the Lake County Tech Campus and area high schools—under the umbrella of the “Lake County Workforce Ecosystem”—to align training with in-demand skills and put employers directly in touch with talent and upskilling opportunities.

A core focus of Lake County Partners is meeting directly with business leaders to discuss challenges, and then using that intelligence to take action that strengthens the local business climate. Through our close relationships in the Workforce Ecosystem, we can quickly assemble tailored solutions related to recruitment, site selection, infrastructure, financing and incentives that make it easier for businesses to grow in Lake County. Connect with us here to schedule a quick call with us and tap into our free business resources and connections.

2. Invest in Education

Businesses are only as healthy as the workforce that supports them. The College of Lake County (CLC) is a key player in the Workforce Ecosystem and a long-time leader in community education. The school has leaned on creative, out-of-the-box thinking to strategically invest in talent development and arm students with in-demand skills.

As a result, Lake County now has over 1,000 students in manufacturing programs at the college and high school levels that will go on to fuel business growth. That number only stands to grow, thanks to CLC’s latest endeavor and its crown jewel of manufacturing education: the incredible Advanced Technology Center (ATC) in Gurnee.

The ATC is a former big box store that is being thoughtfully transformed into a 142,000 sq. ft. center for manufacturing education. Nearly 500 community members recently gathered together to celebrate the grand opening of the ATC with a ribbon cutting—fittingly made out of metal and cut apart by a trio of torch wielders, including a student, instructor and CLC president Dr. Lori Suddick. The fanfare is certainly justified.

The ribbon cutting commemorates phase 1 of the ATC, which engaged local manufacturers to strengthen Lake County’s workforce by providing industry-relevant career pathways focused on industrial technology, fabrication, and welding. Phase 2 of the project, currently under consideration, will reimagine the other half of the facility and reflect the input from the broader community and local manufacturing leaders.

In the short time since the ATC opened, its impact has been immense—prior to its existence, CLC averaged 115 welding students. This semester, which is the first-time offering classes at the ATC, there are over 200 students. With the launch of the new program and facility, CLC can teach and train upward of 700 students annually.

CLC also offers dual credit partnerships with 24 high schools in more than 40 academic areas—that encompasses 2,200+ high school students who are enrolled in dual credit classes that both reduce the time students spend completing certifications and provide an annual savings of approximately $1.5 million for students and families.

These programs were intentionally designed with multiple entry and exit points to meet the educational needs of a variety of students. The coursework to complete credentials is purposefully sequenced so that students can earn one or more certificates on the way to completing either an Associate in Applied Science or Associate in Science degree.

The power of dual credit partnerships can be seen in CLC’s relationship with the nearby Lake County Tech Campus. Tech Campus students can earn up to 9 college credits at no cost through CLC. Credentials are stackable, so students can use them to supplement post-secondary education as they zero in on a long-term career path.

The Tech Campus is well-regarded as one of the best career and technical education training facilities in the Midwest. It was established nearly fifty years ago to pool together local educational resources to educate high school students. Today, it is an extension of 22 area high schools spanning Lake and McHenry counties.

This year, the Tech Campus welcomed 1,900 students—its largest cohort in the past 10 years, which solidified its position as the biggest career technical secondary educational center in the entire state of Illinois. It is also the largest career center in the state, both in space and student population.

3. Pioneer Bold New Career Pathways

Communities that lead manufacturing growth won’t do it by staying tethered to traditional models. Dual credit programs are a fantastic way to get young people engaged and foster their interest, but we can’t stop there. Local schools have begun to explore new certifications that provide clear pathways for high school students to pursue a career in manufacturing while benefiting from practical workplace experiences, streamlined connections with area employers and minimal educational costs.

The Illinois School Board of Education (ISBE) has provided a means of establishing these certifications through the Illinois State Career Pathway Endorsement Process. As of earlier this year, twelve schools in the state have moved forward to pilot programs, including Grayslake District 127 in Lake County. The school has leveraged a grant through Ed System NIU to establish a four-step process that results in a seal on a student’s transcript that can distinguish them from other peers entering the field of manufacturing.

The transcript seal is as important as the process itself. In strategically walking students through the steps of the endorsement framework, educators like Gina Schuyler can help them make more informed post-secondary education decisions. Grayslake D127 uses the program YouScience to engage students in 11 brain-based games that align interests and aptitudes across a broad spectrum of career options. The tool begins conversations that students can then explore with the support of a mentor. Grayslake D127 is excited to add to this process with SchooLinks, a career readiness product that can help counselors, CTE teachers, and internship coordinators collaborate more efficiently.

As students take early college credit classes in the form of dual credit, articulated credit or AP credit, they can pursue professional learning experiences outside of the classroom. Examples of career exploration activities include site visits to employers, virtual experiences, career expos, and mock interviews. Team challenges can take place within a lab-based classroom such as a “skills check” through an employer, or through involvement in Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs) such as Skills USA, FBLA, FCCLA or NTHS. Finally, the school ensures students are reading and math ready for post-secondary options.

As other schools in Lake County, including the Tech Campus, begin to embrace the endorsement process for their students, Grayslake is pioneering a discussion with Workforce Ecosystem partners to garner support for the initiative, establish best practices, and chart a path forward that increases participation and support.

To fuel this program and ensure its success, the Workforce Ecosystem is also lining up buy-in from the business community. This is an important step that starts with educating and engaging local business leaders so that they can more quickly tap into Lake County’s extraordinary talent pipeline.

4. Build Diverse Community Support

Engagement is fundamental to establishing clear direction that serves the entire community as a whole. Lake County Partners secured a federal grant to lead the development of a county-wide Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) that has earned the full endorsement of area leaders. The Lake County CEDS supports continued economic prosperity through social initiatives tied to affordable housing, paratransit, early education and other important elements that support manufacturing growth and tie into the ideas included in this article.

5. Keep the Feedback Loop Open

Economic growth doesn’t happen in a vacuum. To build flourishing businesses and vibrant communities, leaders must be open to connecting, discussing and listening. Economic development organizations like Lake County Partners can drive conversations forward by bringing together informed elected officials, business owners, workers, educators and other stakeholders to ensure that training and investments remain relevant, forward-thinking and inspiring.


One of the many benefits of operating a business in Lake County, Illinois is access to a strong workforce pipeline. Connect with us here so we can put you in touch with the talent that your company needs to grow.

Investments in Education are Shaping Next Gen Talent

2022 was a pivotal year for educational investments in Lake County. Local educators understand that innovation, technology, research and training are necessary to build the workforce that businesses need now, and in the future—and they have prioritized spending to create new career pathway programs, support startups, build lab space and train students with in-demand skills that can propel success in key industries like life science, advanced manufacturing and healthcare.

The year’s most notable achievements spanned all ages, once again demonstrating the power of Lake County’s educational system and its ability to nurture talent from kindergarten through high school and beyond.


Rosalind Franklin University (RFU) launched the Helix 51 incubator nearly four years ago to advance early-stage and start-up companies. Since its inception, Helix 51 has welcomed 9 companies specializing in fields such as oncology, cardiovascular health, infection disease, fibrotic disease and fibromyalgia, with a tenth about the begin.

    Helix 51 graduated one company, AirAnswers, which then became the first company to reside within the school’s Innovation & Research Park (IRP). Using $2 million in matching funds from the Illinois Department of Commerce wetlab buildout program (with RFU matching another $2 million), RFU is now building out more than 14,000 sq. ft. of additional wetlab space in the IRP that will come online in Q2 2023.

    As part of that buildout, RFU will expand the Helix 51 incubator to handle an additional 9 lab-based companies – an important step because Helix 51 is the only biomedical incubator north of downtown Chicago. RFU is also in advanced discussions to bring in an out-of-state biotech company to the third floor of the IRP.

    This year, RFU’s new College of Nursing also received approval from the Higher Learning Commission to offer a Master of Science in Nursing for Entry into Nursing Practice (MSN-ENP) degree program, which is designed to fuel talent and meet healthcare demands in the region.

    RFU also recently partnered with LCP to host an ongoing monthly BioInnovations Speaker Series to address key issues in healthcare and biomedical research through a hybrid format of both live and virtual meetings. This program consists of both RFU leading faculty researchers in key disease areas as well as regional industry leaders involved in these diseases.


    In 2022, the College of Lake County celebrated the grand opening of its crown jewel of manufacturing education: the incredible Advanced Technology Center (ATC) in Gurnee. The ATC is a former big box store that is being thoughtfully transformed into a 142,000 sq. ft. center for manufacturing education. It will strengthen Lake County’s workforce by providing industry-relevant career pathways focused on industrial technology, fabrication, and welding. Phase 2 of the project, currently under consideration, will reimagine the other half of the facility and reflect the input from the broader community and local manufacturing leaders.

    The ATC is critically important for business retention and attraction. Though the local manufacturing labor force has grown 3.6% over the last year alone (representing 2,200 new workers), it is estimated that some manufacturing occupations will see up to a 20% increase in employment growth over the next six years. The ATC will strengthen Lake County’s talent pipeline to meet those future needs.

    In the short time since the ATC opened, its impact has been immense—prior to its existence, CLC averaged 115 welding students. This semester, which is the first-time offering classes at the ATC, there are over 200 students. With the launch of the new program and facility, CLC can teach and train upward of 700 students annually.

    With the ATC now open, CLC turns its attention toward raising awareness of this powerful symbol of Lake County’s investment in workforce development. LCP is leading the way on tours for manufacturers, municipal leaders and the broader business community.


    The Tech Campus is well-regarded as one of the best career and technical education training facilities in the Midwest. It was established nearly fifty years ago to pool together local educational resources to educate high school students. Today, it is an extension of 22 area high schools spanning Lake and McHenry counties.

    In 2022, the Tech Campus welcomed 1,900 students—its largest cohort in the past 10 years, which solidified its position as the biggest career technical secondary educational center in the entire state of Illinois. It is also the largest career center in the state, both in space and student population.

    Because of a unique dual credit partnership with the College of Lake County, Tech Campus students can earn up to 9 college credits at no cost through CLC. Credentials are stackable, so students can use them to supplement post-secondary education as they zero in on a long-term career path.

    This partnership is just one example of the relationship that CLC has with 24 high schools in more than 40 academic areas—that encompasses 2,200+ Lake County high school students who are enrolled in dual credit classes that both reduce the time students spend completing certifications and provide an annual savings of approximately $1.5 million for students and families.


    At the end of 2022, local leaders from AbbVie, the North Chicago School District and IFF, along with teachers, students and community members, also gathered together to celebrate the grand opening of the magnificent new Neal Math and Science Academy—the only middle school in North Chicago. It has support increased enrollment by accommodating up to 625 students, all of whom will benefit from a thoughtful curriculum that stresses science, technology, engineering and math.


    One of the many benefits of operating a business in Lake County, Illinois is access to a strong workforce pipeline. Connect with us here so we can put you in touch with the talent that your company needs to grow.

    The Headlines That Grabbed Our Attention in 2022

    Living in Lake County means that you can climb the career ladder and continue to enjoy life long after the work day is done. With a strong balance of top-quality communities, leading employers, convenient commuter options and a wide variety of outdoor activities and entertainment venues, you will find a rewarding life in Lake County—and judging by the top headlines of the year, others have clearly taken notice.

    We take great pride in rounding up this sampling of recent praise and recognition:

    • Chicagoland was named #1 metro for projects and #3 in the nation for corporate expansion and relocation projects by Site Selection Magazine.

    • Illinois became the 5th state in the nation to produce $1 trillion in annualized economic activity—an historic accomplishment that reflects the productivity of local workers. 

    • Among the companies lauded by the Chicago Tribune for being the best workplaces in the region were Wintrust Financial Corporation, Horizon Therapeutics, Medline Industries, Trustmark, Learning Resources and Impact Networking.

    • Global commercial real estate firm CBRE credited Lake County with being at the heart of biotechnology growth in the state. 

    • Illinois named #1 state of LEED Development by U.S. Green Building Council.

    • Greater Chicago enjoyed unprecedented life sciences growth, with venture capital investment up 286% – the most significant increase in bioscience venture capital funding of any major U.S. Market in the past three years.

    • Highland Park, Lake Forest and Deerfield were among the top 20 suburbs in the nation, according to iheartradio.

    • Crain’s Chicago Business named Illinois among the top states in the country for bioscience growth—in the past 4 years, employment in the sector grew 4.5%.

    • Clean energy jobs grew by 5% in Illinois, resulting in 5,000 new jobs in solar panel installation, lithium battery recycling, electric vehicle charging, infrastructure construction and more.

    How Can Your Business Enjoy the Perks of Operating in Lake County?

    If your company needs help leveraging local assets, making important connections, strategizing on the best location or finding talent, we can help. Connect with us here to request support and see how we can help your business grow in Lake County, Illinois.

    LCP Joins Local Leaders in Launching New Regional Partnership for Economic Development

    Regional leaders joined together to celebrate the formation of the Greater Chicagoland Economic Partnership, a first-of-its-kind united effort including the City of Chicago, Cook County, Lake County and five other counties across metropolitan Chicago, to drive a regional economic strategy that will deliver mutual benefits to partners, and strengthen Chicagoland’s economic force in an increasingly fierce competitive global market.

    “I’m pleased to announce the creation of a regional economic development partnership, recommended by our City’s COVID-19 recovery task force,” said Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot, who also serves as chair, board of directors at World Business Chicago. “The Chicagoland region is a driving force of business in the nation. From its central location to industry strengths, this region is positioned for significant growth and continued emerging business driven by tech and innovation. I am grateful to World Business Chicago, the ideal partner to coordinate the varying interests of regional partners and the private sector, who will drive regional economic development into the future.”

    With financial commitment from each of the partners totaling $1 million for the first in a three year pilot, World Business Chicago will manage the new Chicagoland Partnership and expand its services region-wide, complementing existing municipal and county programs.

    “I have long championed an equitable, regional approach to economic development, and it has been a top priority at the County ever since I took office,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “I am proud to reach this historic milestone which helps advance our commitment to a more inclusive and equitable local economy.”

      The Greater Chicagoland Economic Partnership will focus 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 to develop a competitive global identity. Also, international engagement will be coordinated among the partners, and they will share and optimize resources like market research and asset mapping to achieve greater efficiency and scale.

      “We know we will achieve better results working together. The ability to share information and pool our resources makes this partnership truly a win-win for DuPage, Cook, the collar counties and the City of Chicago,” said former DuPage County Chair Dan Cronin (2010-2022) who has long championed this effort. “If we want to truly thrive, a strong regional economic development effort is essential. The Greater Chicagoland Economic Partnership will provide a critical component, showcasing the Chicagoland area’s many advantages for businesses considering a new location in our region.”

      “Today’s announcement of the Greater Chicagoland Economic Partnership will not only move the Chicagoland region forward but become its distinctive competitive advantage, helping existing firms expand in the region and attract new corporations. The region’s future is bright,” said Michael Fassnacht, President and CEO, World Business Chicago, Chief Marketing Officer, City of Chicago.

      The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) set this work in motion two years ago, supported by a grant from the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust, at the request of the region’s county board chairs and the deputy mayor of Chicago. CMAP partnered with the Brookings Institution — a nonprofit public policy organization. The partners met over a series of convenings to develop the recommendations and achieve consensus on the Partnership’s principles and expectations. Those partners include:

      • Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle
      • DuPage County Board Chair Dan Cronin (Term ended in Dec. 2022)
      • Kane County Board Chair Corinne Pierog
      • Kendall County Board Chair Scott Gryder (Term ended in Dec. 2022)
      • Lake County Board Chair Sandy Hart
      • McHenry County Board Chair Michael Buehler
      • Will County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant
      • Samir Mayekar, Deputy Mayor for Neighborhood and Economic Development, City of
      • Chicago
      • Cook County Bureau of Economic Development
      • Choose DuPage
      • Lake County Partners
      • McHenry County Economic Development Corporation
      • Will County Center for Economic Development
      • World Business Chicago
      • Private and civic sector partners

      How Can Your Business Leverage this Momentum?

      As the non-profit organization charged with fueling economic development in Lake County, Lake County Partners has been proud to draw on its 25 years of experience to help move this initiative forward. We have free resources, connections and knowledge that can help your business expand. Connect with us here to request support and see how we can help your business grow in Lake County, Illinois.

      Lake County Partners Breaks Its Own Record for Driving Capital Investment

      2022 was a stellar year for economic growth in Lake County. Thanks to the support of Lake County Partners’ investors, LCP remained laser-focused on driving business success, developing talent and enhancing economic mobility.

      This year, our work resulted in 419 new jobs, 112 retained jobs and $202 million in direct capital investment—our impact on direct investment is the greatest it has been since we began tracking 4 years ago. Over those four years, LCP has landed projects that resulted in $617 million in direct investment, 3,659 new jobs and 4,227 retained jobs.

      In acknowledgement of LCP’s achievements, Crain’s Chicago Business honored LCP president and CEO Kevin Considine by recognizing him as one the year’s Notable Leaders in Community Development.

      In 2022, our workplan concentrated on:

      • nurturing a full pipeline of projects in key industries like life science, manufacturing and energy, many of which will spill over into 2023;
      • implementing the goals identified in the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy;
      • laying the groundwork for a regional partnership that will enhance business attraction outside of Illinois;
      • coordinating support for major investments at local educational institutions;
      • driving business outreach through a strategic digital communications plan that increased web traffic by 122%; and,
      • resuming in-person events to bring local leaders together to celebrate wins and advance important discussions.

      Nurturing a healthy pipeline of projects allows us to optimize business outreach and drive wins. Moving into 2023, LCP is leading management for 38 projects, representing significant growth in Lake County’s key industries of manufacturing, life sciences, sustainability and energy.

      Though not every project yields a favorable outcome, we have had plenty of opportunities to celebrate this year. Congratulations to the following businesses for investing in Lake County:


      Medline celebrated the opening of its 1.4 million-square-foot, LEED-certified distribution center in Grayslake with a festive ribbon cutting and tour of the facility— estimated to be the largest medical-grade distribution center in the country.


      After opening in Libertyville just 4 years ago, Valent BioSciences has enjoyed such growth that the company is investing in a major expansion to advance its synthetic biology, biostimulants, fermentation and downstream processing technologies. Enhancements will include state-of-the-art lab, office and greenhouse space.


      LCP joined local leaders in commemorating a groundbreaking for Takeda’s expansion of its advanced manufacturing facility in Round Lake, which will accommodate one of the company’s new production lines and position it for continued growth.


      The rapid growth of life science start-ups including ARTEC Biotech, Covira, Everyplace Labs and AirAnswers, at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science’s Helix 51 incubator highlights Lake County’s position as a leader in research and innovation. Budding entrepreneurs are a vital part of Lake County’s thriving industry ecosystem – which includes the headquarters for giants like Abbott, Baxter, AbbVie, Horizon and Pfizer and supports 80% of the life science jobs in Illinois. Check out our profiles of up-and-coming companies here.


      The revamped Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills began to take shape, as plans were expanded to nearly triple the size of the new development and incorporate 162 senior housing units, a 25,000 sq. ft. grocery store and 109,000 sq. ft. of open-air retail – a $252 million investment that will reinforce the hub as a destination for dining, shopping and entertainment.


      Leading ERP software publisher and supply chain consulting company xkzero has announced the move of its headquarters to Lincolnshire. The new location will accommodate the company’s growth, and provide an updated workspace as the team returns to more in-person collaboration. The company finds that the area’s talent, coupled with the in-demand amenities offered at One Overlook Point will drive its continued success.

      We want to see your company on next year’s list of success stories. Connect with us here to request support and see how we can help your business grow in Lake County, Illinois.

      Manufacturing Month Caps off Tremendous Year of Growth

      October always brings cooling temperatures, falling leaves and the promise of a very full calendar of events to celebrate Manufacturing Month in Lake County. Indeed, there is much to herald, and the excitement isn’t limited to this month alone. 2022 has been filled with exciting announcements, ribbon cuttings, groundbreakings and gatherings that commemorate Lake County’s strong history of manufacturing excellence.

      Lake County is in good company with communities across Illinois that are enjoying a surge in advanced manufacturing, prompting the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association (IMA) and the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center (IMEC) to launch “Makers on the Move,” a statewide bus tour that has visited manufacturing facilities, colleges and high schools around the state to highlight rewarding career pathways available in the industry.

      Makers on the Move kicked off in Lake County, at the College of Lake County’s impressive new Advanced Technology Center (ATC) in Gurnee. The 142,000 sq. ft. facility was a former big box home improvement store that underwent extensive renovations to transform into a state-of-the-art center for manufacturing education. It is now a powerful symbol of Lake County’s investment in talent and commitment to forward-thinking workforce development.


      “Manufacturing is diverse, sustainable, innovative and exciting, with artificial intelligence, robotics, 5G and virtual reality transforming the industry and our world. The ‘Makers on the Move’ tour is designed to shine a spotlight on the great work our manufacturers do every day, as well as the many exciting job opportunities available across Illinois,” said Mark Denzler, President & CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association. “There’s no better time to explore a career in manufacturing, and manufacturers are ready to train and hire new workers. We’re excited to celebrate our industry and inspire a new generation of leaders who will move our state and nation forward.”

      A recent IMA study found the total economic impact of manufacturing in Illinois is estimated to be between $580 billion and $611 billion every year – the largest share of any industry to the state’s Gross Domestic Product. Manufacturing directly employs 662,298 workers but ultimately supports as many as 1,771,928 jobs, generating up to $150 billion in labor income for Illinois residents annually. In all, it’s estimated that the manufacturing industry supports nearly 30 percent of all jobs in Illinois, making it among the state’s largest industry sectors.

      Manufacturing is particularly important in Lake County, which is dominated by pharmaceutical, plastic product and medical equipment production. The same study found the industry creates $48.4 billion in economic output each year in Lake County, supporting an estimated 31 percent of the county’s economy. This includes 98,949 jobs, which is among the highest concentration of manufacturing jobs in the state. Manufacturers generate $12.2 billion in salaries and benefits in Lake County, with the average manufacturing employee making an annual salary of $160,968.

      As part of the study, economists examined the manufacturing industry’s evolution in the face of rapid technological development, with trends suggesting a shift toward a higher-skilled workforce. In the next six years, it’s estimated there will be a 21 percent increase in employment growth for process control programmers and a 10 percent increase in demand for industrial engineers. These in-demand occupations likely need a post-secondary credential or some college, underscoring the importance of working closely with education institutions, policy makers and manufacturers to provide specialized training, and the need to further expand workforce training across the state to better prepare Illinois residents to enter high-demand fields. This underscored the decision to kick off the tour at the incredible new ATC.

      “The manufacturing workforce is a major part of our competitive advantage here in Illinois. Traveling across the state to celebrate the past, present and future of the manufacturing industry can bring awareness to the accomplishments, opportunities and needs of the industry to build a better tomorrow,” said David Boulay, PhD, President of the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center. “Manufacturing is a stronghold of our communities that helps strengthen local economic, innovates our way of life, and brings people together. I look forward to seeing the positive impact we can make on the future of the industry while also showing recognition and appreciation for those who have dedicated their careers to manufacturing.”


      “We’re proud to sponsor the Makers on the Move bus tour,” said Blake Hunter, Plant Manager at Lake County-headquartered Novelis. “Collaborating with strategic partners like IMA and IMEC supports the development of a critical pipeline for STEM and manufacturing professionals. Thanks to years of investment and innovation, careers in manufacturing are plentiful, safe and rewarding. It is with great appreciation for our partners that Novelis invests in valuable initiatives like Makers on the Move to make a positive impact on our colleagues, customers and communities.”

      Understanding changing workforce needs, the College of Lake County invested in the ATC to strengthen Lake County’s workforce by providing industry-relevant career pathways that focus on industrial technology, fabrication and welding.

      “CLC is a dedicated partner in meeting workforce needs in Lake County,” said Lori Suddick, EdD, President of the College of Lake County. “The college’s investment in the ATC aligns programming with Lake County’s most in-demand jobs. This project represents enormous potential to grow a diverse skilled talent pipeline that is responsive to a critical Lake County industry. The ATC will give our students new opportunities to build rewarding careers in Lake County, while also supporting our thriving manufacturing businesses in this region.”


      Among the successful recent workforce development efforts championed by the IMA is the creation of two new world-class manufacturing academies scheduled to open this fall, a new law that will require all high schools to offer career and technical education by 2025, the establishment of an apprenticeship tax credit for manufacturers that train employees, and a partnership with the Pritzker Administration to launch a new multi-million dollar ad campaign highlighting manufacturing jobs that will launch later this year. All of these efforts will support Illinois’ unparalleled manufacturing workforce and favorable business climate.

      “Manufacturers are often housed in unassuming buildings that disguise the impactful products being made inside. This tour shines a spotlight on the great work taking place in those buildings, while showcasing the variety of fun and interesting jobs available throughout our communities,” said Sarah Hartwick, Vice President of Education and Workforce Policy at the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association and Executive Director of the IMA Education Foundation, which works with high schools and community colleges across the state to create pathways for students to begin acquiring specific skillsets necessary for careers in the manufacturing industry. “No matter your background, there’s a manufacturing job available for you.”


      Learn more about the IMA’s efforts to bolster manufacturing here, and explore the cutting-edge ATC at the College of Lake County here. Connect with us here to tap into these resources and others designed to help your business grow in Lake County, Illinois.

      When the Community Invests in Talent

      Lake County’s workforce literally stands apart from peer regions across the country. Case in point, Lake County has two times more manufacturing talent than the national average for similarly-sized communities. Much of the success is owed to the vast network of local partners who work together to give students the tools that they need to forge rewarding careers and support business needs.

      The Lake County Tech Campus, well-regarded as one of the best career and technical education training facilities in the Midwest, is a prime example of this. It was established in 1977 as a means of pooling together local educational resources to educate high school students. The institution acts as an extension of 22 area high schools in both Lake and McHenry counties. This year, the Tech Campus welcomed 1,900 students—its largest cohort in the past 10 years, which solidified its position as the largest career technical secondary educational center in the entire state of Illinois. It is also the largest career center in the state, both in space and student population.

      “Recent enrollment is a testament to our reputation for providing high-quality educational training,” says Tech Campus Principal Derrick Burress. “Through our connections with local schools, the College of Lake County and business leaders, we are arming high school students with the skills and resources that they need to choose suitable career paths and forge rewarding careers.”

      Each day, students from across the county and beyond come to the Grayslake campus for a two-hour session in the career pathway of their choice. Twenty-two programs are offered in Lake County’s most in-demand industries like welding, industrial technology, healthcare, EMTs and fire fighters. Classes are standards-based which allows students some freedom to explore at their own pace, through hands-on, experiential learning. Lessons intentionally reinforce the notion of having “a calling,” or a purpose that students can explore beyond the classroom walls.

      The Tech Campus not only provides an environment that supports and nurtures a variety of learning styles, it also offers an opportunity for students to earn up to 9 college credits at no cost through a dual credit program with the nearby College of Lake County (CLC). Credentials are stackable, so students can use them to supplement post-secondary education as they zero in on a long-term career path.

      “Our relationship with the Tech Campus is very collaborative,” notes Sarah Stashkiw, the Director for P-20 Educational Partnerships at the College of Lake County. “In response to employers’ demand for industrial maintenance skills, we worked with the Tech Campus to establish a dual credit program for high school students at our new, cutting-edge Advanced Technology Center (ATC) in Gurnee. Because the program is dual credit, students are receiving in-demand training while earning both high school credit through the Tech Campus and free college credit through CLC.”

      Relationship-building is emphasized, with students relying heavily on local business leaders, also known as “advisories,” who help them align their training with the skills expected to be needed in the next 3 – 5 years. Over 350 local business and industry partners provide advisory committee members, internship and job shadow opportunities, apprenticeship sites, field trip sites, and/or donations to the Technology Campus each school year. These companies support the mission of Career and Technical Education which allows the facility to offer the highest quality programming of any Area Vocational Center in Illinois.

      “Tech Campus has always looked to partner with businesses and institutions, and this is highly evident in our new Industrial Technology Program at the ATC of CLC. This program brings students to the ATC to learn state of the art manufacturing techniques that can be used at businesses throughout the area,” said Tech Campus and ATC Industrial Technology Instructor, Dave Wooten.

      This model highlights Lake County’s ingrained sense of community and the close local connections between education and employers. For example, when budding firefighters needed real-world experiences, the Village of Grayslake donated a fire truck for training. Similarly, students in the automotive repair track benefit from cars donated by local businesses and residents.

      Later this year, the Tech Campus will also supplement its programming by rolling out a new career pathway endorsement certification, similar to what was recently embarked upon in Grayslake. A coordinator will serve as the liaison between businesses, students and schools.

      “The Tech Campus’ impact on students and the wider Lake County community is immense,” said Brian Floore, the school’s new construction skills and management teacher who graduated from the Tech Campus in 2003. After working in the trades, he returned to teach. “The Tech Campus really helped me hone in on my interests and talent. Because of the guidance that I received, I began building a career as soon as I graduated. Coming back as an alumnus to teach has been a full circle moment. I am using my professional experience to give back to the students and help them launch their lives beyond school.”


      The Tech Campus continues to add to its robust list of community connections. Business leaders who are interested in learning more can take a virtual tour here, contact Tech Campus Principal Derrick Burress at 847-543-6003 or or get in touch with us here to see how we can help you can connect with the school’s talent.

      Summer Tourism is Hot in Lake County

      The latest jobs report from the Illinois Department of Employment Security bodes very well for Lake County and the entire state of Illinois. The unemployment rate continues to dip, down nearly 2 percentage points from one year ago. Overall, the Lake and Kenosha IL-WI Metro Division labor force data shows that the number of employed individuals has been trending upwards since the beginning of the year.

      “Lake County’s employment picture is strong. Our labor force is as big as it ever was before the pandemic,” says Bethany Williams the Director of Strategy & Intelligence at Lake County Partners. “Importantly, even as more people come back to the labor force, unemployment numbers are dropping in all corners of the county. The manufacturing and business services sectors are bigger than they were before the pandemic, and importantly the leisure and hospitality sector is squarely back on track. This sector is both an important economic driver and a major contributor to our high quality of life in Lake County. There’s lots to be excited about this summer.”

      Leisure and Hospitality businesses are taking advantage of those additions to the labor force and are quickly creating jobs. In the Lake/Kenosha region we’ve seen approximately 3,700 new jobs in this category alone in the last two months, according to recent data from the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

      These numbers reflect increasing consumer confidence and the popularity of Illinois as a tourism destination. In June, hotel occupancy in the state reached 72%, beating the national rate of 70%. This favorable trajectory has many industry leaders optimistic for continued recovery in the back half of the year.

      Deloitte indicated in a recent report that travel confidence continues to rise; six in 10 Americans planned to travel this summer, and more than one-quarter planned to spend significantly more on their vacations this summer compared to 2019. Auto trips have also surpassed 2019 metrics, and travel spending is up nationwide as the pent-up interest in vacation surged this summer.

      “In Lake County, we’ve seen hotel room demand continue to climb, and July was our strongest month for travel since the pandemic, with an average occupancy of 71.6 percent,” said Visit Lake County President Maureen Riedy. “This is a testament to Lake County’s standing as a premiere destination for tourism in the Midwest. Summer is a prime time for us to leverage local assets. We’ve seen tremendous success with our Libation Trail, Road Trip and Kids Summer Fun campaigns. People from across the region continue to flock here to enjoy attractions like Six Flags, the Chicago Bears Training Camp and our wide array of dining and recreation.”

      Business travel has begun to recover and is expected to continue to increase this fall. In addition, data shows the return of short-term, small corporate meetings, which has helped boost local hotel occupancies, according to STR.

      “The hospitality industry is definitely making its way back,” said Jessica Keene, director of sales and catering at The Forester in Lake Forest. “Not only have we seen a big increase in hotel room bookings this summer—our event space is also in high demand. Many companies that suspended in-person meetings and were working remote during the pandemic have returned, so we are thrilled to be busy with corporate travel and meetings.”

      As a sign of this optimism, Lake County is seeing investment. The Illinois Beach Hotel at the Illinois Beach State Park near Zion closed two years ago in response to the pandemic, and recently reopened with new management after a complete renovation. It has the distinction of being one of the only hotels in Illinois on Lake Michigan, and its prime location between Chicago and Milwaukee gives it an audience of more than six million people according to ExplorUS. Like many in the industry, the hotel is exploring special events, equipment rentals and other perks that will bring in new customers.

      The overall performance of leisure this summer in response to the tourism boom has created new employment and funding opportunities. Governor Pritzker recently announced a new $15 million grant—funded through the American Rescue Plan Act—to support tourism and festivals across Illinois. Of this allocation, $10 million will support tourism-related projects like attractions, museums, live performances and more, while $5 million is set aside for economic drivers like community festivals.

      “We will certainly be exploring avenues to best position Lake County for this grant,” noted Ms. Riedy.

      Locally, community leaders are also hard at work to help hotels staff up to meet demand. One example is the partnership that emerged between Lake County Workforce Development, the Village of Lincolnshire and the Lincolnshire Marriott Resort. In 2021, the group held its first “Hire Lake County Job Fair,” to source talent for a variety of positions. The event was such a success that the group is gearing up for it again this year.

      “This year, we’re hosting the 2nd Annual Hire Lake County Job Fair on September 27 at the Lincolnshire Marriott Resort, and registration looks very promising,” said Village of Lincolnshire Planning and Development Manager Tonya Zozulya. “This free in-person event will directly connect businesses in a variety of industries with Lake County’s incredible workforce and create opportunities for networking and collaboration.”


      Click here to register for the Hire Lake County Job Fair, and click here to connect with us to see how we can help your business tap into the wealth of free resources available to businesses in Lake County.

      Lake County, the Home of Heroes Who’ll Soon Benefit from Fisher House Humanitarian Aid

      Lake County’s Naval Station Great Lakes, in North Chicago, has the honored distinction of being the U.S. Navy’s only Recruit Training Command and the Navy’s largest training facility. It has been an important military hub for more than 100 years. Since World War I, it has trained more than 2 million new sailors through the Recruit Training Command (RTC) and nearly an equal number through its technical schools.

      The station sits on over 1,600 beautiful acres overlooking Lake Michigan, and it is home to 1,153 buildings, 39 of which are on the National Register of Historic Places. Its population includes 4,000 active-duty staff personnel and families, 14,000 recruits and students, 3,000 government civilian employees and 2,000 contractors—all of which have an incredible impact on the local community and the U.S. Navy worldwide. Operations, along with area military retirees and educational aid payments, increased Illinois’ gross domestic product by $4.6 billion.

      The station provides a host of services for military members and family from a surrounding 16 state area. The nearby Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center (FHCC) was established in 2010 as a first-of-its-kind partnership between the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense (DoD); this initiative integrated all medical care under a combined mission, allowing for the medical treatment and care of nearly 75,000 patients per year at several locations.

      FHCC locations include a West Campus, East Campus and community-based outpatient clinics in Evanston and McHenry, Illinois as well as in Kenosha, Wisconsin. A full spectrum of healthcare is provided for patients at these locations, including medical and surgical care, mental health services, medical sub-specialties like cardiology, and more.

      While receiving medical attention at these sites, many patients and their families have a need for housing, meals and other accommodations. Demand led the Veterans Administration to explore opportunities to provide spaces in which military families can heal together, without the financial burden brought on by medical crises. The concept of a “Fisher House” was built around this very idea.


      Fisher Houses are “home away from homes,” designed to provide humanitarian support and cozy shelter for active military, veterans and family members who are undergoing treatment. They typically have 16 – 20 suites with private bedrooms and baths. Families share a common kitchen, dining and living rooms and a laundry facility.

      The Fisher House model has been an incredible success. Now, 1,100 military members sleep in Fisher Houses each night, spread across 92 homes located at major military and VA medical centers nationwide. Since inception, the nationwide Fisher House program has saved military and veteran families an estimated $407 million in out-of-pocket costs for lodging and transportation.

      Locally, the Friends of Fisher House-Illinois (FOFH-IL) nonprofit organization works to guarantee that there is never a lodging fee and provides all food, beverages and quality-of-life outings for families. The group is the steward of the state’s first Fisher House—the Hines VA Fisher House outside of Chicago—which has operated at near full capacity since it opened in 2010.

      Hines VA hosts up to 44 people; if at full capacity, those in need are housed free-of-charge at local hotels until suites become available. The need for Fisher House accommodations is so great, in fact, that FOFH-IL is expanding its focus to include Lake County.

      “When members of our military are wounded protecting our country, not only do they pay a steep price, their families also suffer. The Hines VA Fisher House is a special place, as are those like FOFH-IL who do humanitarian work on behalf of these patriots and their families. As wounded warriors receive VA medical care, their families stay at nearby Fisher Houses free of any charge. Soon, I am proud to say, there will be a new Fisher House at the Lovel Federal Healthcare Center—a facility that bears my name,” announced retired Captain and former NASA astronaut James Lovell.


      In North Chicago, FOFH-IL is raising funds to help the Fisher House Foundation build proposing to build the “Lovell Fisher House”—a 15,000 sq. ft. facility along Buckley Road, within walking distance of the Great Lakes Naval Station and FHCC. The two-story, 16-suite structure will carry on the Fisher House tradition and provide free short and long-term lodging, access, food, beverages, outings and camaraderie to help families in North Chicago.

      Major General James H. Mukoyama, Jr., U.S. Army Retired and Chair of the Lovell Patient Advisory Council, added to Lovell’s endorsement. “When military veterans face medical crises, they need to heal together with their families. Sadly, this is a financial hardship. Because I’m devoted to the best medical care for our heroes whose sacrifices protect our country, I want to share a special haven in Illinois helping military families. It’s the Fisher House at Hines VA Hospital. As wounded warriors receive vital medical care, their families stay at this comfort home at no charge. And soon, I’m delighted to say, there’ll be a new Fisher House at Lovell Federal Healthcare Center in North Chicago.”

      Project construction is estimated at $9 million, and FOFH-IL is currently fundraising with the goal of breaking ground later this year and ushering families into the new facility in 2023. The group anticipates supporting 900 families, or approximately 1,800 individuals per year.


      Keeping in mind the sacrifices that so many of these military members have made, and the immense impact that this base has had on the Lake County community, FOFH-IL has made it easy to give back and show support. Click here to learn more about FOFH-IL and its mission to construct the first Lake County Fisher House to support the Great Lakes Naval Station and our military members.