Author: Lake County Partners

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.”

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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.”

WORK-BASED LEARNING IS A GAME-CHANGER

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.”

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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.

HOW CAN YOU TAP INTO TALENT IN LAKE COUNTY?

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

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.

    COLLEGE OF LAKE COUNTY ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY CENTER

    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.

    LAKE COUNTY TECH CAMPUS

    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.

    NEAL MATH & SCIENCE ACADEMY

    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.

    HOW CAN YOU TAP INTO TALENT IN LAKE COUNTY?

    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 CUTS RIBBON ON DISTRIBUTION CENTER

      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.

      VALENT BIOSCIENCES EXPANDS

      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.

      TAKEDA BREAKS GROUND FOR GROWTH

      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.

      RFU FUELS BIOTECH STARTUPS

      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.

      HAWTHORN MALL 2.0 PROJECT GROWS

      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.

      XKZERO MOVES HQ TO LAKE COUNTY

      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.

      Fine Dining Restaurants are On the Rise

      Fine dining is always front and center during the holidays in Lake County—even more so with the grand opening of several new restaurants that are certain to make their mark on the community. These innovative spaces will create jobs, enhance Lake County’s appeal, and add to the enormous impact that the bar and restaurant sector has on the local economy.

      Last year, the industry contributed nearly $900 million to Lake County’s Gross Regional Product, and supported approximately 20,000 jobs at more than 1,200 businesses. Judging from recent activity, this number stands to grow.

      In Gurnee, officials just gathered to celebrate the opening of the Cooper’s Hawk; it is the second Lake County location for the high-profile restaurant known for delicious dishes, Napa-style tasting room and signature wine membership club.

      “The enthusiasm felt from the Gurnee community was overwhelming throughout the entire process,” said Founder and CEO Tim McEnery. “Lake County’s vibrant community is the perfect match for our restaurant—at the tables, and in the kitchen. Our Executive Kitchen Manager is a graduate of the culinary arts program at the College of Lake County, and our close proximity to the school will give us access to some of the finest kitchen talent in the region. During the hiring process in Gurnee, we immediately found the workforce that we needed, and had no trouble staffing up to meet the demand.”

      Gurnee — long-known as one of the area’s entertainment hotspots — also has its hands full with a few other new restaurant-related businesses. Ground-up construction is underway on a building for Restaurant Depot, a wholesale supplier of food and beverage equipment, refrigeration and supplies to independent restaurants, businesses and nonprofits. Pip’s Meadery is also opening soon, boasting of one of the top-rated beverages in the “Untappd” app. The company joins an impressive and steadily growing roster of breweries and distilleries that are expanding in Lake County and enhancing the local entertainment scene.

      “We’ve seen momentum across the board, not only in the restaurant and entertainment industries, but also in retail and manufacturing, with recent big projects from Buick GMC of Gurnee and AZ Polymers,” said Mayor Tom Hood. “The activity is a testament to Lake County’s business climate, and Gurnee’s approach to business support.”

      Further south, in Mundelein, the Village is ushering in a downtown renaissance with a new outdoor dining program that supports local businesses by making it easier to serve customers. The program has the added benefit of cohesively beautifying the right of way and creating an inviting environment for customers.

      “Mundelein is a maker’s place, and this new program and space will let our business owners express their creativity while showing off our downtown. What’s even better is we can share this space with other Mundelein businesses and visiting businesses with the new food truck pad/business kiosk space,” said the Village’s Community Development Director Amanda Orenchuk. “We have so many incredible, authentic dining experiences to offer, and the Village was happy to work with local business owners to enhance these opportunities.”

      Nearby, in Libertyville, officials are also ushering in a new crop of upscale restaurants. The Board Room, opened by Libertyville native Liz Turnbaugh, is an immaculately detailed bistro space that shines a spotlight on charcuterie. The restaurant is in good company among a row of other tastefully decorated spaces including Main Street Social, Milwalky Taco, Milwalky Trace, Firkin and others.

      “Six incredible dining venues have opened over the last year alone in Libertyville including Coppolio’s, Mixto Cuisine, Harbor Kitchen & Tap, and Duck Donuts,” said the village’s Economic Development Manager Heather Rowe. “There are nine other kitchens in the works to include Hewn Bakery, Singh’s Kitchen, and Kung Fu Tea, and we expect to see their doors open soon. Libertyville is a destination for specialty restaurants and unique shops, and each new addition adds to the energy on the street. We try to make it easier for our customers to find Libertyville options through our dining website.”

      Neighboring Vernon Hills is also seeing its share of bustling retail and restaurant activity. Texas-based Perry’s Steakhouse just announced big plans to open its third Chicago-area restaurant on the revamped Hawthorn Mall property—they are preparing for 11,000 sq. ft. that will provide the capacity to seat up to 350 people and four private dining rooms.

      “We are excited about the momentum at Hawthorn Mall. The Perry’s announcement is just the start, and we continue to be impressed about the future of this project,” said Assistant Village Manager Jon Petrillo. “The redevelopment of Hawthorn Mall represents a $252 million investment and includes a grand plaza, 55,000 sq. ft. of retail/restaurant space, a new mall entry and over 500 luxury apartments. We look forward to creating a destination for visitors and residents of Lake County to experience and enjoy.”

      Earlier this year, Crain’s Chicago Business and the Chicago Tribune both reported on a wave of new restaurants in Lake Forest, representing really experienced, innovative restauranteurs with ties to Chicago. This year, the city added five additional restaurants to the already 30 existing eateries. Among the upscale additions were Le Colonial and Sophia Steak. The Wall St. Journal, too, just picked up on the news with a story focusing on the restaurant industry’s shift in focus to the suburbs.

      The sentiment is echoed by recent reports coming out of the Illinois Restaurant Association. “The suburban fine dining restaurant scene is hotter than it’s ever been,” said Illinois Restaurant Association President and CEO Sam Toia. “Despite the challenges presented over the past few years, the industry has emerged stronger and is ready to confidently meet consumer demand.”

      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.

      MOVING MANUFACTURING FORWARD

      “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.”

      LOCAL INVESTMENTS IN HOMEGROWN TALENT

      “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.”

      FOCUSED ON THE FUTURE

      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.”

      MOVE FORWARD WITH US

      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.