Author: Lake County Partners

Taking A Fresh Look at Chicagoland’s Value Proposition

When the Greater Chicagoland Economic Development Partnership (GCEP) was established at the beginning of the year, Lake County joined the City of Chicago, Cook County and five other counties across metropolitan Chicago in a united effort, led by World Business Chicago, to take business attraction to the next level on the global stage.

By all measures, the group effort is paying off. In leveraging the region’s incredible competitive advantages—an abundant talent pool, 2nd largest concentration of Fortune 500 headquarters in the country, major growth capital investments, thriving economic sectors, renowned institutions, interconnected transportation and more—GCEP has already has a number of economic development wins under its belt.

“The GCEP asset report and map showcase the unparalleled vitality of the greater Chicagoland region,” said Michael Fassnacht, President & CEO of World Business Chicago. “As the GCEP comprises the city and seven counties, this report provides a unique view of the economic strengths. For site selectors, TV and film scouts, and business leaders eyeing expansion, the report offers the insights needed to make a strong and compelling business case as to why Chicagoland. This is also a must read for residents and local businesses interested in knowing more about our diverse economy, strategic location, and commitment to equitable growth.”

The new report illuminates the strategic and economic strengths that define the Chicagoland region as a nexus for business and innovation, and it has already become an essential resource for site selectors, executives, and entrepreneurs alike. It is broken down into 8 easily-accessible categories, which are underpinned by a few overarching themes:

  • SIZE — Chicagoland is the nation’s third largest economy and is among the top 20 global economies; in fact, its economy is larger than most nations. The Chicago region offers more supply on a scale unmatched by growing or other low-cost areas. Businesses have access to a larger labor pool, customer base, and supply chain than elsewhere in the U.S.

  • DIVERSITY — Unlike other metro areas with strong industry dominance, like tech in the Bay Area or life sciences in Boston, Chicagoland offers the most diverse economy in the U.S. This diversity provides a cushion against economic shocks as businesses and workers can transition more readily to alternative sectors during challenging times. It also enhances the region’s competitiveness on a global scale, positioning Chicagoland to capitalize on global market trends and shifts in demand.

  • INDUSTRY — The Chicago region is the most diverse manufacturing ecosystem in the U.S. — of the 21 manufacturing sub-sectors, Chicago is ranked among the top five of 13, and is among the top 10 of 16. This diversity not only enhances the quality of products and processes but also makes the region a hub for innovation, attracting investment and talent. Moreover, a diverse manufacturing sector is better equipped to adapt to changing market dynamics, reducing vulnerability to economic fluctuations and contributing to the region’s long-term stability and prosperity.

  • INNOVATION — Chicagoland’s tech ecosystem is characterized by a blend of established industries, startups, and research institutions that contribute to its unique identity. The diverse economy provides startups with ample opportunities for collaboration and partnerships, and prestigious universities and research institutions foster a rich environment for technology innovation.

  • RESILIENCE — Chicagoland is poised to weather adverse conditions — physically and economically. Chicagoland has the right combination of diversification, adaptability, environmental policy, and supportive social systems that contribute to an economy’s resilience.

  • COST — Chicagoland has more affordable real estate and cost of living, especially compared to the coasts and similarly-sized, globally-connected metro areas. Businesses have access to a world class ecosystem, at the cost of a tertiary market.

“Lake County Partners appreciated the opportunity to team up with our GCEP partners to produce this fantastic assessment of Chicagoland’s many assets,” stated Bethany Williams, Lake County Partners’ Director of Strategy and Intelligence. “The document reflects our collective goal to provide tailored insights, show off the region’s vibrant economy, foster strategic decision-making, and nurture innovative endeavors. The same unique set of assets that originally put Chicagoland on the map endure and grow stronger with time, inviting future growth and prosperity.”

Review the new GCEP Asset Report & Map here, and connect with us here so we can walk you through the many reasons why Lake County, Illinois is the right location for your next business move.

RealWheels Invests $6 Million To Expand Into 65,000 Sq. Ft. Facility & Create New Jobs In Lake County

RealWheels Corporation joined local leaders and officials together today in celebration of the advanced manufacturing company’s expansion at 3905 Route 173 in Zion, Illinois. RealWheels recently completed the move-in, following its renovation of the 65,000 sq. ft. facility to accommodate continued growth and new product development.

What initially started as a DIY wheel cover project by Founder and President Jan Polka has developed into a thriving business with over a dozen U.S. patents, offering hundreds of products to customers around the world.

“As a former owner/operator of my own Kenworth truck and gravel trailer, I always looked for opportunities to make my vehicle stand out. The cast-spoke wheels weren’t attractive, and I wanted to find a way to dress them up,” said Polka. “I began fabricating my own wheel covers out of my home garage. I got them chrome plated, and they looked great. Other drivers started asking me where they could get them. In response to demand, my wife Sherri and I began manufacturing and marketing wheel covers at night from our home in Lake County. Sherri came up with the name “RealWheels.” I realized that there was nothing like them on the market, and so I applied for and received my first patent. From there, we moved the operation to a 2,500 sq. ft. industrial building and began the first of many expansions. Today, we employ 60 people, and 99% of our products are proudly made in the United States. Lake County has been instrumental to our success. In deciding where to grow, we wanted to stay true to our roots. Zion is the perfect place for our next stage of growth.”

“RealWheels is a true homegrown success story,” said City of Zion Mayor Bill McKinney. “The company’s investment will benefit our community by creating new jobs, providing opportunities for future growth, reactivating the site, and advancing our goal of developing the major intersection at Route 173 and Kenosha Road. It was rewarding to collaborate with our partners at the state of Illinois and Lake County Partners to make this deal happen.”

RealWheels leveraged TIF, EDGE and Enterprise Zone incentives to finance the project.

“The State of Illinois remains committed to supporting new and expanding businesses that will contribute to our world-class workforce, infrastructure, and economy across the state,” said DCEO Director Kristin Richards. “By offering competitive incentive packages, the State is giving homegrown companies like RealWheels the resources and opportunities needed to continue to grow and invest in Illinois.”

RealWheels’ investment builds on the company’s decades-long contribution to Lake County’s rich tradition of manufacturing—a $20 billion industry and the largest contributor to our gross regional product,” noted Lake County Board Chair Sandy Hart. “One out of every six local jobs is in advanced manufacturing, which is more than any other private sector industry. The success is a result of Lake County’s spirit of collaboration, workforce strength and strategic business support. We are honored that RealWheels has once again chosen to grow here.”

“RealWheels is an important name on an impressive roster of businesses that call Lake County home,” said Steve Madden, the Chair of Lake County Partners’ Board of Governors and CEO of Libertyville Bank & Trust. “The company joins other manufacturing leaders like Carlson Labs, Roncadin Pizza, Henry Broch Foods, Diversified Food Services Supply, Encore Packaging and NorthStar Pickles that are planning to expand in Lake County this year. In fact, over the past 8 months alone, Lake County Partners’ business development work has resulted in nearly 700 new jobs, over 500 retained jobs and a whopping $316 million in direct investment—much of it in manufacturing. Based on our outreach, we expect the upward trajectory to continue.”

This is What Strong Economic Development Looks Like

We continue to say it, but it really bears repeating. As measured by job growth and investment, the last five years have been one of the best runs in the county’s history.

Lake County Partners’ wins have really stacked up this year. In the past 8 months alone, our business development work has generated over $316 million in direct investment—the highest amount since we began tracking in 2019.

Incredibly, since 2019, Lake County Partners’ work has resulted in 4,340 new jobs, 4,738 retained jobs and $933 million in direct capital investment.

With plenty of projects in the pipeline, particularly in key industries like life science and manufacturing, sustainability and energy, we forecast a continued upward trajectory. Expect to see us at many more groundbreakings and ribbon cuttings in the months to come.

Along with the success has come the accolades. This summer, CNBC ranked Illinois among the top in the nation for business. CNBC followed in the footsteps of Site Selection Magazine, which named Illinois 2nd in the nation for corporate projects, and Chicagoland the top metro for the 10th consecutive year. This is important, because these data-based acts run counter to the headlines we frequently read.

In fact just a few weeks ago, U.S. News and World Report recognized our schools as being among the best in the nation. The local headlines might as well have been plucked from our promotional material—“Best High Schools in the U.S.: Lake County Schools Lead the Way in Illinois.”

Education truly sets Lake County apart. Our schools are highly skilled at training the next generation of talent, and preparing our students for success. For some, that might mean helping them go on to college. For others, it means creating bold new career pathways.

Lake County has emerged as a leader in Career and Technical Education, putting us at the forefront in Illinois and the nation. We recently conducted a survey of 18 local high schools and found that there are nearly 15,000 high school students participating in Career and Technical Education in fields like manufacturing, healthcare and IT, including over 8,000 in manufacturing. These students are being equipped with the in-demand skills that they need to flourish in the workplace, and they are graduating from high school ready to support themselves and the broader economy.

Lake County schools are stronger because they have support from corporate citizens like AbbVie—the company helped fund the new Neal Math and Science Academy in North Chicago, which opened at the end of last year. This summer, Abbott, Horizon, and the Steans Family Foundation joined iBIO in producing a STEMGirls Camp to encourage 118 local grade-school girls to explore science, technology, engineering and math in Waukegan. These are just a few recent examples of the public-private partnerships that fortify Lake County’s workforce pipeline and bolster key industries like life science.

Last month, Chicagoland ranked among the top 10 biopharma clusters in the U.S. according to Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News. In fact, the industry’s success in the region spurred the Chan Zuckerberg Foundation to commit $250 million to boosting life science technology in Illinois. At the same time, we’ve seen huge grants awarded to researchers at Rosalind Franklin University to advance cutting-edge medicine.

We can’t applaud our educational systems without acknowledging the huge role that higher education plays in our economy. The homegrown talent coming out of Rosalind Franklin, the College of Lake County and Lake Forest College is a game-changer for local employers, including our major health systems, which were recently ranked among the top in the state by U.S. News and World Report.

We have so much to leverage when it comes to business attraction, and we’re reaching new audiences thanks to the Greater Chicagoland Economic Partnership—formed through an alliance with our counterparts in the region. This summer, the partnership hit its 6-month mark, with plenty of wins under its belt already. This fall, we will be part of a delegation in Japan, where we will fortify our relationships with Japanese companies already in Lake County and create new connections and opportunities.

This year marks Lake County Partners’ 25th anniversary. It’s an incredible milestone, made possible through the support of a long list of investors and partners. We are proud of all that we have accomplished and excited for the future ahead. Most importantly, we stand at the ready to help businesses growth in Lake County, Illinois. Connect with us here if we can help.

How We’re Building a Foundation for Inclusive Growth

In 2021, Lake County Partners received a $110,000 federal grant to lead the development of a new Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). The award came at a critical time amid the COVID-19 pandemic, when many communities were examining their business climate, addressing social upheavals and placing renewed attention on long-range planning and stability. The money was provided by the Economic Development Administration (EDA), as part of the CARES Act with the intention of creating jobs and strengthening Lake County’s economy.

“The CEDS plan will help the region recover from the COVID-19 pandemic by creating a new economic development vision for the area,” stated a release from U.S. Representative Brad Schneider, issued when the grant was awarded to Lake County Partners. “Long-term, the funding used to update the CEDS plan will create and retain more jobs, attract private investment, and bolster local economic resiliency.”

Immediately upon receipt of the grant, Lake County Partners got to work by issuing a Request for Proposals to conduct the process and finalize a new CEDS for Lake County. After a thorough vetting process, TIP Strategies was selected to lead the effort, which would be overseen by a steering committee made of up a diverse group of stakeholders and include input collected from the public. The process was intentionally inclusive and engaging – the Steering Committee began meeting monthly, conducting roundtable discussions and a “Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities and Threats” (SWOT) analysis to determine priorities. As a part of the project, the committee also worked with TIP Strategies to develop a critical site inventory that could be used to inform decision-making and hosted an “Opportunity Workshop” to synthesize feedback.

After a year filled with stakeholder sessions to create a well-rounded strategy that will create jobs, fuel collaboration and strengthen Lake County’s economy, a draft CEDS document finalized; it reflected the group’s desire to establish a framework that supports talent development and attraction, education, housing, and other elements critical to quality of life and the business climate. The draft CEDS was presented to the public for a comment period that culminated in Q1 of 2022, at which time Lake County Partners’ Board of Governors voted to approve the document. Lake County Partners then spent the remainder of 2022 presenting the final version of the CEDS to stakeholders and receiving the endorsement of the Lake County Partners Board, Lake County Board, the College of Lake County Board and the Lake County Workforce Development Board. The CEDS was also submitted to the EDA for certification and approved.

While the final CEDS document reinforces the importance of business retention and attraction, it goes further to explore structural issues that create the foundation for healthy and inclusive economic growth across the vibrant and diverse communities in Lake County – as encouraged by the Steering Committee. As a result, LCP has spent the first half of 2023 spearheading several major initiatives to support the goals of the CEDS.

“Lake County Partners has always excelled at making connections, and the CEDS has presented us with new opportunities to engage our partners and fortify the fundamentals that make Lake County such an attractive place in which to live and work,” notes Bethany Williams, Lake County Partners’ Director of Strategy and Intelligence, and the manager of the CEDS process. “Once the CEDS was completed, we turned our attention to the building blocks of society, and we’re making significant inroads on three very important fronts: early childhood education, housing growth and collaboration.”



Lake County is an excellent best place to be a child and raise a family, but there are opportunities to enhance its support systems for children and families from the prenatal period through age five.

Investments of this nature would help fortify Lake County’s talent pipeline and make it possible for more parents in their prime working years to pursue career opportunities without sacrificing the care or education of their children.

LCP is working with a group of philanthropic and educational partners to build on the results of a landscape assessment of the early childhood system, and design a path forward to provide critical services to every child and family who needs them.


Talent is a major consideration of businesses considering investments and expansions, and it goes hand-in-hand with housing.

A tight housing market has turned LCP’s attention on a study that is examining demand across a variety of types and price points to ensure that Lake County’s housing landscape is competitive and attractive. 

The final study, scheduled to be completed in late 2023, will help communities make land use, transportation and infrastructure decisions and identify opportunities for reuse of underutilized spaces.


The CEDS challenged LCP to expand the scope of its work, inviting conversations about how Lake County fits within the region, the Midwest and the global economy; one of the results of this discussion was the formation of the Greater Chicagoland Economic Partnership. 

The CEDS also dug into socioeconomic themes, encouraging a deeper look at LCP’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. LCP subsequently amended its bylaws for the first time in nearly 20 years to ensure that its guiding principals are reflective and respectful of Lake County’s vibrant and diverse community. To further support this goal, LCP staff also assumed leadership roles on boards tackling wide-ranging issues like land use, affordable housing, community health, college and career awareness, workforce development, transportation and transit. 


Our work on the CEDS doesn’t end here. Stay up to date with news on the initiatives here, and connect with us here to see how your company can work with us to grow in Lake County, Illinois.

Manufacturers Are Making Major Investments in Lake County, Illinois

Based on job growth and investment, business has never been bigger in Lake County, Illinois. Lake County Partners is poised to stoke the success with a strategic workplan focused on business retention and attraction, which is leveraging Lake County’s incredible talent, real estate, and quality of life, and resulting in significant investments.

“In the last four and a half years, Lake County Partners has fueled $810 million in direct capital investment, created nearly 4,200 new jobs and retained over 4,723 existing jobs,” says Lake County Partners’ Director of Business Development Director Ron Lanz. “I am currently managing a robust project pipeline, with 42 projects in key industries like advanced manufacturing, life science and sustainable energy. Our involvement with the Greater Chicagoland Economic Partnership is also opening up new business attraction opportunities. In my conversations with business leaders, their optimism remains strong, so I expect to see continued investment and growth in the back half of 2023.”

One in every 7 local jobs is in manufacturing, and Lake County has two times the workforce to support it than other similarly-sized communities. Top talent, coupled with innovation, leading-edge technology, access and infrastructure, are among the many reasons that local leaders are choosing the area to grow. The industry has become a major focus of Lake County Partners; as a result, many local employers are enlisting Lake County Partners’ support as they make major expansion and hiring decisions.

Over the past year alone, Lake County Partners has been directly involved in brokering deals for a variety of manufacturers – work has included coordinating economic incentives, tapping into workforce initiatives, finding space, making connections and producing ribbon cuttings and ground breakings. Examples of recent wins follow.


Belle Aire Creations, a creator of market-leading fragrances and flavors for the world’s leading brands, worked with LCP to celebrate a sustainable 40,000 sq. ft. facility in Round Lake Park, a short distance away from its main campus in Mundelein. The new facility quadrupled the company’s manufacturing footprint, and created 15 new jobs that shortened lead times and increased capacity. The company is also currently expanding in Libertyville with a new global headquarters and creative center.

Graph-Pak Corporation, a 35-year leader in the design, manufacture and distribution of paperboard packaging, relocated into a 207,000 sq. ft. facility in Island Lake. The project represented a $7 million capital investment and created 110 new jobs. LCP worked with the state and leveraged Enterprise Zone economic incentives to keep Graph-Pak in Illinois.

Quaker Houghton, a global leader in industrial process fluids, committed to a $25 million retrofit and expansion of portions of its 75,000 sq. ft. Zion facility.

LCP teamed with the state to provide Enterprise Zone economic incentives, including those that exempted the company from state and local sales taxes on eligible building material purchases to offset project costs. The project retained 31 employees and created 10 new jobs.

Margolin Fanletic, an Illinois-based e-commerce apparel and shoe retailer, purchased a 232,000 sq. ft. building in Gurnee to expand its warehouse and distribution operations.

This $17 million capital investment created 40 new jobs. LCP worked with the company to leverage Enterprise Zone economic incentives and defray a portion of the retrofit expenses.

Since 1978, RealWheels has manufactured stainless steel accessories for heavy-duty trucks and vehicles. With demand growing and new product development underway, RealWheels worked with LCP to expand into a 65,000 sq. ft. facility in Zion. LCP coordinated with city officials and the state to help RealWheels tap into TIF, EDGE, and Enterprise Zone incentives. As a result, RealWheels invested $6 million, retained 45 local employees and hired 15 new people.

For more than 40 years, Advanced Prototype Molding (APM) has been providing its prototype molding services via a wide range of capabilities including 3d printing, RTV molding, and tool and die. With business booming, APM made a capital investment of $5 million to expand into a new 50,000 sq. ft. facility and create 45 new jobs in Wauconda. With LCP’s help, APM tapped into a suite of incentives including TIF, Enterprise Zone, and EDGE.


The good news doesn’t end here. Review other recent wins, and keep an eye on our social media, blog and news to know more about businesses in Lake County, Illinois and access our Lake County data hub.

Lake County Partners has over 25 years of experience driving economic growth and the resources to take your growing company further. Learn more about Lake County’s advanced manufacturing market and request our support here.

Exciting Life Science Space Enters the Market at Rosalind Franklin University

Rosalind Franklin University (RFU) launched the Helix 51 incubator over four years ago to advance early-stage and start-up life science companies in Lake County, Illinois. Since its inception, Helix 51 has welcomed 15 companies specializing in fields such as oncology, cardiovascular health, infection disease, fibrotic disease and fibromyalgia.

LCP has profiled many of the startups, including Covira, Everyplace Labs, and ARTEC Biotech, going in depth to look at the groundbreaking ways that they will change the life science landscape and have global impact.

Helix 51 also graduated one company, AirAnswers, which then became the first company to reside within the school’s Innovation & Research Park (IRP). The IRP is a fertile environment for collaboration and creativity among academic and industry scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs. Through cutting-edge, in-demand laboratory and office space, users are encouraged to interact and share ideas, expertise and tools.

Using $2 million in matching funds from the Illinois Department of Commerce’s wetlab buildout program awarded in 2022, RFU invested in the build out an additional 14,000 sq. ft. of wetlab space in the IRP that was recently completed and is now coming online. The new built-out lab space features:

  • 8,000 sq. ft. on the first floor, divided into 2 spaces of approximately 4,000 sq. ft. each that can be used by one or two growing companies; and,
  • 6,000 sq. ft. on the second floor, divided into 9 individual labs.

Each area has space provided for lab refrigerators/freezers, storage, and other scientific equipment. RFU has also provided chemical fume hoods and biosafety cabinets, and both spaces are also equipped with emergency power. Occupants of the spaces also have access to the IRP’s 8 conference rooms and Harris Collaboration Zone as well as autoclave/glass wash and lab ice machines and a café. Also available nearby in the Helix 51 incubator is a new class 100,000 clean room and state-of-the-art lab equipment. Furthermore, the campus is located in an Illinois Enterprise Zone, giving prospective tenants fiscal incentive opportunities.

Avison Young is representing the space, and interested companies are encouraged to seize the opportunities quickly. Get the building specs in this brochure.


As part of the buildout, RFU expanded the Helix 51 incubator to handle additional lab-based companies – an important step because Helix 51 is the only biomedical incubator north of downtown Chicago.

Two new companies have signed on to the Helix 51 Incubator in the last 6 months: UP Oncolytics, a spinout from Advocate Aurora that was founded by a neurosurgeon and focuses on oncolytic viruses for treatment of glioblastoma, and Integrated Life Systems, a medical device company founded by two former Abbott executives.

The flurry of activity at RFU has grabbed attention and confirmed what many economic development pros across the nation know: Chicagoland has quickly emerged as the life science industry’s “third coast.” Over 125 regional biotech leaders recently converged for the Lake County Bioscience Real Estate Summit to celebrate the industry’s growth and marvel at the IRP, with representation from AbbVie, World Business Chicago, Aptinyx, Intersect Illinois, Jones Lang Lasalle and many other leading life science companies and architectural/engineering firms.

The summit zoomed in on Lake County’s vibrant life sciences ecosystem, which includes 147 companies, supports 33,000+ jobs and generates $85 billion in worldwide sales.

Bisnow’s participation in and coverage of the event highlighted Chicagoland’s unstoppable force in the life science market. The region has leapt to No. 7 on CBRE’s annual list of largest life science employment clusters, surpassing Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Minneapolis-St. Paul and becoming the highest-ranked noncoastal city on the 2023 list.

Major league pharmaceutical and biotech companies in Lake County like Abbott, AbbVie, Pfizer, Horizon Therapeutics, Takeda, Amgen and Fresenius Kabi have also powered the metro to #2 in the nation for pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing. There is no end in sight, with Lake County’s life sciences job market growing steadily at 10% per year.

The region is now poised to rise into the top 4 national markets, turbocharged by investments in talent and institutions like the IRP, and the landing of the Chan-Zuckerberg project – an instance in which Chicagoland life science leaders beat out 57 applications from 36 US cities to land $250 million to fuel lab infrastructure and research to propel growth and innovation in Illinois. It’s no wonder that so many growing life science companies are taking an interest in the IRP and looking at ways to leverage Lake County’s success.


LCP has over 25 years of experience driving economic growth in Lake County, Illinois and the resources to take your growing life science company further. Learn more about Lake County’s strong life sciences market and request our support here.

LCP’s Popular Big Event Returns to the Stage Better Than Ever

Lake County Partners’ signature annual breakfast, aptly named “The Big Event,” once again brought together hundreds of business and civic leaders for a morning focused on continued collaboration and business growth. The morning will also marked the organization’s 25th anniversary of fueling economic development in Lake County, Illinois.

The Big Event specializes in providing insights on the latest tools and trends driving economic development, and this year’s program will zero in on performance. Keynote Speaker David Epstein, a New York Times best-selling author of the books Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, and The Sports Gene, will discuss his bold and challenging ideas on the most effective path to success, as inspired by his analysis of some of the greatest executives, scientists, artists and athletes in history.

Big Event attendees honored the tremendous accomplishments of Richard H. Korengold, the outgoing Lake County Partners Board of Governors Chair and Senior Managing Director at Mesirow Wealth Management.

“Under Richard’s direction and vision, Lake County Partners has flourished as the go-to economic development organization in the northern suburbs. His leadership has defined our organization, and we are so grateful for the time and energy that he has put into his position,” noted Steve Madden, the incoming Board of Governors Chair and CEO of Libertyville Bank & Trust Company, N.A. “As measured by job growth and investment, the last four years have been one of the best runs in the county’s history. As the incoming Chair, I am committed to sustaining the forward momentum that will keep Lake County at the forefront of business growth and innovation.”

“Richard has championed the development and approval of the county’s new Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS),” adds Lake County Board Chair Sandy Hart. “The CEDS is extremely important because it collaboratively aligns economic priorities across the region and creates an action‐oriented, five‐year economic development strategy that will enhance our communities and business climate. I am confident that the final CEDS product has set us up for success and will result in a better Lake County for generations to come.”

“Richard’s achievements, and the economic growth that we’re seeing in Lake County, are nothing short of extraordinary,” says Lake County Partners president and CEO Kevin Considine. “Our team is currently nurturing 22 new projects, with six wins already under our belt this year. In the last four months alone, we have welcomed a new PR company, food manufacturer, vitamin supplements manufacturer, frozen pizza manufacturer, food equipment manufacturer and an affordable senior housing project into the area, which has resulted in over $190 million in new capital expenditure, 666,000 sq. ft. of new and reactivated space, 493 new jobs and 450 retained jobs. We expect that trajectory to continue through the back half of the year. All told, since 2019, Lake County Partners has been directly involved in projects that have resulted in 4,155 new jobs, 4,677 retained jobs and $807 million in direct investment. I am very proud of what we have accomplished with the support of our partners and Lake County Partners’ Board of Governors.”

“It has been my pleasure to work directly with local leaders to enhance the economy, grow business and make sure that we are positioned for future prosperity,” responded Korengold. “Lake County is in excellent shape. Over the last several years, our Gross Domestic Product has grown 9.6%, reaching $69.7 billion. The number of businesses in Lake County now exceeds pre-pandemic levels, and growth has been particularly prominent in our key industries of advanced manufacturing, life science, healthcare and professional and technical services. Economic projections indicate that more new jobs, increased consumer spending and growth capital investment, and continued state-of-the-art real estate construction are on the horizon. My tenure as Chair of the Board of Governors has been very rewarding, and I have appreciated the opportunity lay the foundation for another 25+ years of success at Lake County Partners.”

One company that has leveraged Lake County Partners’ resources to expand is Henry Broch Foods. At the Big Event, the company will be honored with the 2023 Community Investment Award for investing in its existing Waukegan headquarters by adding 160,000 sq. ft. of new production, robotic warehouse and distribution space. Not only is the company retaining 400 existing jobs, but it is adding an additional 150 new jobs in Lake County too. The project represents a capital investment of nearly $40 million.

“I am thrilled to accept the award on behalf of Henry Broch & Company,” said VP of Business Development Edan Antonetti. “From our headquarters in Lake County, Henry Broch Foods has established itself as one of the leading food manufacturers in the nation. Our success is the direct reflection of the work environment that we have created in Waukegan. People have been a game changer for us. In deciding to invest in more people and new space, we knew that we wouldn’t find better talent and support than what we have here in Lake County.”

The Big Event is made possible with generous support from the Lake County business community including Lake County, the College of Lake County, Old National Bank, the Hunter Family Foundation, Abbott, AbbVie, Comcast, Horizon Therapeutics, Innovation Park, the Gorter Family Foundation, 1818 Renewable Energy, a5 Branding & Digital, Advocate Condell Medical Center, Aston Carter, Bridge Development, BCI Acrylic, CBRE, Great Lakes Construction Association, Great Lakes Credit Union, Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, JP Morgan Chase, Libertyville Bank & Trust Company, N.A., Mesirow, Pace Suburban Bus VanGo, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, UCC Environmental, The Upper Illinois River Valley Development Authority, Van Vlissingen and Co, Walgreens, Barbara’s Bookstore, Five Grain Events and World Business Chicago.

Henry Broch Foods’ Expansion Highlights Streak of Food Manufacturing Wins in Lake County

At Lake County Partners’ legendary Big Event, so-called because it brings together the largest group of business and community leaders in Lake County for an inspirational morning focused on economic growth, the year’s Community Investment Award honored advanced manufacturer Henry Broch Foods.

Henry Broch Foods has a long history in Lake County, and especially in Waukegan. The family-owned company was founded in 1941 and today, the company is one of the largest and most successful U.S.-based international food ingredient, processing and co-packing companies in the world. The company sources quality natural ingredients from growers, and its suppliers produce vegetables, fruits, herbs, spices and natural colors that have been concentrated, dehydrated, extracted or pasteurized.

Henry Broch Foods is at the cutting-edge of the food industry, and it is devoted to the pursuit of new blending, formulating and packaging ideas that keep up with evolving consumer demands. You can find their products in a variety of applications including spice and seasoning blends, batters and breading, bakery blends, sauces, soups, salad dressings, flavors, extracts and colors, fruit juices, flavored beverages, jams and jellies, prepared meats, entrees, ethnic foods, pasta, rice and grains, pizza and snack foods.

Despite many attempts by other states to lure them away from Lake County, the company has made a commitment to grow and invest in Waukegan to leverage the area’s significant talent and proximity to other business leaders in Lake County’s steadily growing food manufacturing cluster.

Lake County Partners worked closely with the company’s leadership to help them expand their existing Waukegan headquarters by adding 160,000 sq. ft. of new production, robotic warehouse (ARSR) and distribution space. Not only is the company retaining 400 existing jobs, but it is adding an additional 150 new jobs in Lake County too. Their project represents a capital investment of nearly $40 million.

“Our family is very proud of what it has built in Lake County over the generations, and we are excited to begin this next chapter,” noted VP of Business Development Edan Antonetti. “In Waukegan, we have found and nurtured creative and committed people, honed our technologies and committed to being at the forefront of food manufacturing innovation. This has been our secret recipe for business growth.”

“This is an incredible commitment to long-term expansion in Lake County,” noted Business Development Director Ron Lanz. “Lake County Partners is fortunate to have had the opportunity to assist Henry Broch Foods in its decision. We have celebrated a steady stream of new business development in Lake County, and a lot of our recent work has been concentrated in the manufacturing sector. Food production is particularly pronounced, and we’re expecting that trend to continue in the coming quarters.”

The Lake County Partners team is currently nurturing 22 new projects, with six wins already completed this year. In the last four months alone, Lake County Partners has welcomed a new food manufacturer, vitamin supplements manufacturer, frozen pizza manufacturer, food equipment manufacturer, PR company and an affordable senior housing project into the area, which has resulted in over $190 million in new capital expenditure, 666,000 sq. ft. of new and reactivated space, 493 new jobs and 450 retained jobs. The back half of 2023 is lining up to be equally as successful.

All told, since 2019, Lake County Partners has been directly involved in projects that have resulted in 4,155 new jobs, 4,677 retained jobs and $807 million in direct investment.

The success at Henry Broch Foods is emblematic of the huge role that advanced manufacturing plays in Lake County’s economy. It is a $20 billion dollar business and the largest contributor to our gross regional product. One out of every seven local jobs is in manufacturing, which is more than any other private sector industry.

Food and beverage manufacturing, in particular, employs over 2,100 people in Lake County and provides a very stable, rewarding and welcoming career path. Non-durable goods, which includes food and beverage manufacturing, is a $13.7 billion industry by output. Since 2019, five food-related companies in Lake County have received over $33M in growth capital investment, including Cool Beans in Lake Forest, McClary Innovation in Barrington, Produce Alliance in Buffalo Grove, Riceworks in Long Grove and Winestyr in Gurnee.

Importantly, 29% of sales for Lake County’s food and beverage manufacturing firms stays within the county—making it a huge economic engine in the community.

The food manufacturing success in Lake County really reflects industry trends in the greater metro region. Chicagoland is the nation’s food innovation and manufacturing capital, and it is home to its largest food manufacturing workforce as well.

Its proximity to the nation’s most productive farmland and an extensive transportation network helped grow the historic industry. Today, Chicagoland is the nation’s crossroads, making it easy for food manufacturers to get their products to market. The region has 6 of 7 Class I railroads, and it is home to North America’s largest inland port: CenterPoint Intermodal, which occupies ~6,400 acres and handles ~3M TEU annually. Nearby O’Hare International Airport is the #1 U.S. port by value, moving $330B in imports and exports in 2022.

Chicagoland also benefits from an interconnected web of partners that support industry innovation and food-related business growth, including over 75 incubators and accelerators.

“Chicagoland’s prowess in the food manufacturing industry is remarkable,” notes Hannah Loftus, the Regional Director of Research for World Business Chicago. “The region is #1 in the U.S. when it comes to employment, output and talent. It is also #1 in a variety of sub-industries including sugar and confectionary products, graining milling, fruit and vegetable preservation and dairy. Over 43% of supply chain inputs for food and beverage manufacturing companies come from this area. Just last year, we saw $328 million in growth capital for food-related firms, which represented 175% growth from 2019.”


As the nonprofit charged with fueling economic growth in Lake County, Illinois, we can help you tap into the resources and connections that many businesses are leveraging to grow. Connect with us here to tap into our resources, connections and twenty-five years of experience driving the economy forward.

Lake County High School Students Are Primed to Fuel Business Growth

Lake County Partners is fortunate to work with incredibly skilled education leaders who are training the next generation of talent in Lake County. In pursuit of the best way to arm young students with the in-demand skills that they need to flourish in the workplace, local innovators are shaking up the traditional mold and charting a new path forward in education. Illinois schools and the businesses they serve will benefit immensely. The following is part of an ongoing series of blogs spotlighting Lake County’s strong education system. Learn more about the Illinois State Career Pathway Endorsement process here, and see how investments are shaping next generation talent here.

Career and Technical Education (CTE) provides high-school level instruction for careers in high-wage, high-skill, and in-demand occupations. CTE programs have been crafted to strengthen students’ technical skills, articulate transitions to postsecondary programs and/or employment, help meet learning standards and close achievement gaps.

“Lake County has emerged as a leader in CTE, and it has helped put our schools at the forefront of education in the state and the nation,” says Dr. Michael Karner, Lake County’s Regional Superintendent of Schools. “Educational leaders around the county are aligning programming with CTE courses to build career pathway endorsements. Because of the cutting-edge approach, career exploration is much more robust, and students are better prepared for the working world.”

A recent survey of 18 Lake County high schools found overwhelming support for and enrollment in CTE.* There are currently 14,244 high school students participating across the fields of manufacturing, healthcare and information technology. Manufacturing makes up the largest percentage of the cohort, with 8,016 students participating.

Most of the respondents indicated that they expect the enrollment numbers to continue to climb as the schools transition to more robust course selections. In fact, the Lake County Tech Campus’ enrollment continues to increase each year, and the school is anticipating more than a 10% increase next year. Many schools will be adding new opportunities in fields like sports medicine, agriculture, video/animation and robotics.

Round Lake High School is one such example, where planning is underway for a new sports medicine pilot that will train 28 students next year. The school has also made incredible connections with local employers to create seemingly unorthodox training opportunities. “This year, our Project Lead the Way classroom is working with Takeda to create prototypes that will be used in real world quality inspections on their manufacturing line,” says Eddie Adamson, the school’s CTE Department Chair. “Round Lake High School students meet with employees from Takeda multiple times throughout the year in order to perfect their ideas and products. It is a very synergistic process, and one that inspires our students to think big.”


What used to be a 10-minute career inventory survey in most high schools has evolved into an entirely new process that weaves curriculum in with the philosophy of education. Schools leverage resources like SchooLinks and YouScience to help students understand their passions and interests, and this knowledge informs class selections and career opportunities. Supplemental career exploration events, internships and connections with mentors in the community round out the approach. The result is a well-informed, passionate and committed individual who is ready to build a career and immediately meet business needs in Lake County.

Meaningful CTE experiences are brought to fruition through a “Work-Based Learning (WBL)” strategy that connects employers and future employees through structured learning experiences that develop transferable skills for postsecondary education and the workplace.

“We have prioritized community partnerships, and they have been instrumental to our success at Grayslake D127,” reports Gina Schuyler, the CTE Department Chair for Careers and Community Partnerships. “Students can be seen meeting with companies at lunchtime for summer hiring, exploring areas of interest and taking field trips to job sites to understand the reality of certain work environments. Our coordinator also creates monthly calendars for students and parents to engage with the community.”

“We understand that today’s high school is not just the physical walls of the classroom; it is the classroom and the community together that helps create REAL learning,” adds Schuyler. “We even use the hashtag #D127GetsREAL – an acronym that stands for Real, Engaging, and Authentic Learning. Often times, these mini experiences turn into rewarding internships or more intensive career exploration opportunities. CTE’s popularity has growth so much that we have created 8 new positions in the last four years alone, taking our staff from a team of 12 to a team of 20 to accommodate demand.”

WBL is critical to advancing equity and opportunity for all Lake County students because it results in affordable or no-cost advanced education.

For example, at D127 in Grayslake, students participated in the College of Lake County’s Apprenticeship Spring Break Program, which then launched into a “Learn and Earn” program that combines job-related classroom learning with structured on-the-job training with a mentor in fields like business, education, horticulture, manufacturing and information technology.

D127 also received a grant through the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association (FMA) to host a summer camp for middle schools called Nuts Bolts and Thingamagjigs that enabled students to tour Libertyville-based manufacturer Laser Precision and learn how to earn tuition reimbursement for manufacturing training.

“Laser Precision has experienced tremendous success, in part because of Lake County’s high quality workforce,” said Human Resources Manager and Lake County Partners Board of Governors Member Kimberly Wimer. “As a growing manufacturer, it has been our honor to engage with students and provide exposure to the high-tech careers that await them in this industry.”

Students and parents will also connect with Waukegan-based manufacturer LMT Onsrud to begin “pre-apprenticeship” talks. Several others will be placed in embedded school-day internship classes with local manufacturers like SuperShox.  

The crown jewel of manufacturing education – the College of Lake County’s new Advanced Technology Center in Grayslake — will also play a role, as students take tours of the space and learn to apply their CTE class skills in a new environment.

Curated experiences like this are certainly among the reasons that so many Lake County high school students are exploring CTE. Further growth is anticipated, with the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association (IMA) recently announcing scholarships for those earning the manufacturing career pathway endorsement.

“As manufacturers look to build a skilled workforce of the future, it’s important we work collaboratively with employers, educators, and policy makers to create chances for students to learn about manufacturing through career exploration and specialized training opportunities. The many wonderful programs available in Lake County provide a model for the rest of the state to follow,” said Sarah Hartwick, Vice President of Education & Workforce Policy at the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association and Executive Director of the IMA’s Education Foundation. “Manufacturing provides young people with safe, clean and high-wage careers, and job opportunities are abundant in exciting fields like robotics, machining, electrical vehicle production and more.”

Lake County also stands to benefit from the new Youth Systems Building Academy, which was established in December 2022 and is overseen by the U.S. Department of Labor. The Academy provides training and technical assistance to workforce systems and community partners to help them explore, design, test, implement and expand approached to workforce attraction, particularly for young workers.

Nationwide, nine communities were recently chosen by the Department of Labor to participate in the Academy, and Lake County was one of those selected. Participating partners include Lake County Workforce Development, the College of Lake County’s Indiana, Illinois and Iowa Foundation for Fair Contracting, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, and the Lake County’s Regional Office of Education.

The group held its first in-person session in March, and is collaborating online before the Academy convenes again later this summer. Expect to hear more on this exciting initiative as it moves forward. It is sure to have a lasting impact on Lake County’s robust talent pipeline.

*This estimate does not include Deerfield/Highland Park and Zion Benton high schools.

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.