Author: Lake County Partners

When the Community Invests in Talent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Summer Tourism is Hot in Lake County

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

Lake County is Primed for Continued Growth

Lake County has celebrated tremendous growth in the first six months of 2022. A streak of business wins coupled with strong gains in life sciences and advanced manufacturing, a pipeline full of projects, and a new Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy guarantees an equally busy back half of the year.

This success echoes what we are seeing in Greater Chicago and across the state of Illinois. A recent survey correction from the U.S. Census Bureau found that Illinois has actually gained population over the last decade and is the number one state in the Midwest for job growth — this reflects the state’s recent ranking as the third in the country for corporate relocations and expansions. Illinois ranks sixth in the nation for total labor force.

Talent continues to be a major factor in business decisions, which is why we remain laser-focused on working with new and existing businesses to help them tap into Lake County’s incredible workforce, forge important connections, leverage incentives and drive the economy forward. It is with great pride that we survey the following top accomplishments of the first six months of 2022:


The new Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) for Lake County has been completed and adopted, and we are in the process of presenting it to other key stakeholder groups for endorsement. LCP recently led an implementation workshop to set priorities and build immediate action plans for short-term goals while also laying the ground work for longer-term goals. Stay up to date on our CEDS work here.


Lake County is the second-largest advanced manufacturing county in the state, and a $900,000 award earned by the College of Lake County (CLC) will leverage industry growth and support the local talent pipeline with in-demand skills training. Lake County Partners is proud to work closely with CLC to align employers’ needs with education initiatives to improve opportunities and outcomes.


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


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


Lake County-headquartered AbbVie and Abbott were among the companies leading the way when it comes to investments, growth and patents across the state. This year’s Illinois Science and Technology Coalition’s Research and Development Index shows how the region is poised for continued success. The report illustrates the impact of developments in therapeutics, diagnostics, and medical research at Illinois’ amazing academic health centers, universities, federal labs, and innovative companies, demonstrating that there has never been a more important time for critical thinking, research, and scientific discovery.


A New York real estate investor paid $190 million for the 164-acre Kemper Lakes corporate office campus in Lake Zurich. This deal is the highest price paid for a suburban Chicago office property in 17 years, showing investor demand for office properties tied to long-term tenants with good credit. Investments like this aren’t just about the buildings, they’re also about vibrant communities and their ability to attract talent. Lake County offers top shelf schools, the second largest concentration of Fortune 500 headquarters in the Midwest and a healthy real estate market – making it a prime location to invest.


C-PACE is an innovative program that helps commercial property owners make efficiency improvements through projects that involve water conservation, electric vehicle charging, renewable energy and more. It allows property owners to obtain 100 percent financing from private capital providers for eligible improvements such as HVAC, lighting and solar photovoltaic (PV) systems and other improvements in both existing buildings and new construction projects.


In a strategic effort to strengthen the local talent pipeline in an in-demand field, Rosalind Franklin University launched a new College of Nursing, the first of its kind in Lake County. The new program will strengthen talent and meet a critical nursing shortage, especially among communities hardest hit by COVID-19.


Homewerks Worldwide, an advanced manufacturer of private-label and branded kitchen, bathroom and plumbing products, signed on to occupy over 260,000 sq. ft. at a Libertyville distribution center shared with medical supply company Medline.


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.


This cutting-edge clean technology manufacturer announced its new headquarters in Vernon Hills to support aggressive plans for growth and new jobs.


The locally-headquartered company moved ahead with its cutting-edge Miraj Diamond technology after securing $20 million to bring its synthetic, electronics-grade diamond material to market. The start-up has used its Gurnee location to attract talent and investment while honing in on a process that will have a huge impact on applications ranging from display glass and optics to semiconductors.

The good news doesn’t end here. Review other recent wins here, and keep an eye on our social media, blog and news for continued announcements.

Lake County is the Proud Home of the Second Largest Concentration of Fortune 500 Headquarters in the Midwest

Lake County’s economy benefits from a strong base of over 30,000 businesses in a variety of sizes, scales and industries known for growth and innovation. It has long been heralded as a destination for company headquarters, and the area is the clear location of choice for Fortune 500s.

For 68 years, Fortune Magazine has ranked America’s largest companies based on revenue and profits through it’s “Fortune 500 List.” Despite rising inflation, supply chain complications and inflation, Lake County again maintained its prominence on the just-released 2022 list, with a whopping 12 Fortune 500 headquarters that now call Lake County home. This number jumped up two from the 10 that made the list in 2021.

We are proud to congratulate the companies that were recognized on the list this year: Walgreens, AbbVie, Caterpillar, Abbott Laboratories, CDW, Discover, W.W. Grainger, Baxter International, the Packaging Corp. of America, Fortune Brands Home and Security, Camping World and CF Industries.

These companies represent a wide swath of industries, all of which are key to Lake County’s economy, including life science, advanced manufacturing, finance, distribution, logistics, clean energy and more. Combined, these companies employ tens of thousands of people in Lake County.

In addition to providing high quality jobs, rewarding career paths and talent enrichment, these companies are tremendous corporate citizens. They invest in Lake County communities, infrastructure, people and organizations, including Lake County Partners. They are fundamental to our mission of driving business growth and developing talent in Lake County.


Lake County boasts of the business, workforce, infrastructure and cultural benefits of a world-class metropolitan area, but at a fraction of the cost compared to coastal metros and downtown Chicago.

The county spans 1,300+ square miles and has a population of nearly 700,000 and access to greater Chicago’s 9.4 million people. Nearly 46% of residents have a Bachelor’s Degree or higher, which is 13% more than the national average, making its talent pool among the deepest in the country. It is also one of the most diverse, which brings a wide variety of valuable perspectives and experience to the table to drive business forward.

Furthermore, Lake County’s highly-integrated educational system anticipates business needs. Students study at nationally-ranked public high schools, earn STEM credentials at the College of Lake County and Lake Forest College, and go on to receive doctoral degrees from well-known schools in an array of in-demand disciplines. Many of these students appreciate the high quality of life, affordability and high concentration of job opportunities offered in Lake County’s many vibrant communities, and so they return to build rewarding careers and families. Case in point, Chicagoland is the #1 destination for BIG TEN university graduates.

Lake County’s central location between two major midwestern hubs — Chicago and Milwaukee — and position along Interstate 94, puts it within a one-day drive of most major industry in North America. It is a hub for regional, domestic and international markets, and has a tight-knit system of commuter options. Metra’s four rail lines feature 32 train stations coupled with Pace’s clean-diesel coach bus fleet and over 550 miles of trail and bikeway connections make it easy to draw talent from across the region.

The Port of Chicago and Waukegan Port District, coupled with Lake County’s state-of-the-art facilities, reliable rail lines, and transport routes put companies at a strategic crossroads for goods distribution. In fact, Illinois is the only state crossed by all seven of the nation’s class one rail lines. Lake County is also just a quick trip from three major international airports—Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport, O’Hare International and Chicago Midway International—as well as Waukegan National Airport, which includes a new customs building, and allows corporate aviation departments, private users, emergency responders, law enforcement, medical transport and flight training programs in Lake County to connect with destinations worldwide.

Travel is fun when you have a wide range of entertainment options and cultural amenities suitable for all tastes. Local municipalities are regularly ranked among the top in the nation due to their high-quality schools, recreational opportunities, transportation, healthcare access, fiscal stability and leadership.

In Lake County, you can have the career you want, and the life you want, and employers are taking note. The strong balance of housing options, leading employers, outdoor activities and more proves that while Lake County is business driven, it is also a great area for those looking to prioritize both work and play.

It’s no wonder that Lake County continues to enjoy a surge of business expansions and relocations, and we are honored to play a role in the success. Contact us to learn more about how we can help your company join the ranks of Lake County’s many thriving company headquarters.

When it Comes to Air Quality, This Company Has the Answer

Air quality has perhaps never been more top of mind than over the past several years. From the COVID-19 pandemic to the West Coast wildfires and beyond, some of the biggest threats are now also the most microscopic.

A particle needs to be 10 microns or less before it can be inhaled into your respiratory tract and impact your health. In most cases, this size is imperceptible to the human eye, which means that invisible viruses, bacteria, dust, mold and respiratory droplets can persist in the air and be inhaled without warning, triggering a host of issues like illness, asthma, infection, or allergies.

When faced with the question “Do you know the health of the air you’re breathing?” the truth is, many of us don’t until we are faced with the negative effect of exposure. It’s the idea of bringing visibility to invisible threats that led one young company to Lake County to develop and take its cutting-edge concept to market.


Inspirotec, now known as AirAnswers Inc., is a compelling story of a life science startup that has successfully used local resources to move to the commercialization stage of company development. Its co-founder, Dr. Julian Gordon, was a renowned and highly-cited biomedical scientist at Abbott—a globally-recognized life science powerhouse headquartered in Lake County.

Dr. Gordon began his career at King’s College London, in the very lab where Rosalind Franklin originally advanced her famous research on X-ray crystallography and took images of DNA molecules in the early 1950s. It was her work on “Photograph 51” at King’s College London that ultimately demonstrated the helical structure of DNA and enabled James Watson and Francis Crick to build the first model of the molecule—science that would go on to fundamentally change the way that we understand the human body.

Franklin’s impact on medicine was so profound that it inspired the name of the university in North Chicago that is today known as Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science.

“Dr. Rosalind Franklin was a pioneer in the field of DNA research, and RFU researchers, faculty and students reflect her diligence in their work — including the pursuit of equity in population health and respiratory health,” said Dr. Wendy Rheault, RFU president and CEO. “We know there are communities in Lake County that have higher incidences of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease than neighboring communities. Our university is committed to the reinvention of health care and building healthier communities through experimentation and innovation, and our research partnerships with industry help drive that mission forward.”

Thanks in part to Rosalind Franklin University’s Helix 51 incubator, the school is certainly living up to its name and influencing medical technology at an unprecedented rate. In the past six months alone, five life science startups have signed on to grow, and they can now look to AirAnswers as a successful role model. (Learn more in our other profiles of Covira, Everyplace Labs, and ARTEC Biotech.)


Like Rosalind Franklin, AirAnswers co-founder Dr. Gordon has also made a major mark on our understanding of the human body. Today, he is perhaps best known for developing the seminal tests that lead to the technology Abbott uses for its home pregnancy tests.

Building on the extensive experience that he accrued while working in Lake County’s innovative life sciences ecosystem, Dr. Gordon went on to form AirAnswers, an early-stage company that developed innovative and affordable technologies for the collection, detection and tracking of airborne biological agents.

Between 2013 and 2017, AirAnswers refined its technology, demonstrating capture potential in an environmental lab chamber, Boston inner city schools, patient homes, and low-income homes in Baltimore. This work was supported through research collaboration with leading organizations like Harvard University, John Hopkins University, University of Chicago, Northwestern Medicine, Argonne National Laboratory, the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, University of Nebraska Medical Center, the American Association for Aerosol Research and the U.S. Army.

The result is the AirAnswers product — a portable device that uses patented technology to move high volumes of air to identify harmful, invisible bioaerosols to prevent health issues. Through electrokinetic capture technology, charged particles become attached to the negative electrodes on a cartridge which is later sent to the AirAnswers lab for analysis. Only one sample is required for an entire home, and the process is the first and only to offer assessment of actively growing mold through a Beta Glucan analysis.

Because the device is “plug and play” and doesn’t rely on a filter, professional training is not needed to run the machine, and there is no hazard of clogging. Once the lab processes the cartridge, results are sent electronically. For all of these reasons and more, AirAnswers is now an easy-to-use and popular option in the indoor air quality market.

As a quickly developing startup, AirAnswers needed space to grow and develop its concept. In a twist of fate, Dr. Gordon’s earlier lab connection to researcher Rosalind Franklin brought his career full circle as he learned about the Helix 51 incubator being developed at Rosalind Franklin University in North Chicago.

The management team and board consist of a number of former Abbott executives tapping into the extensive executive management pool in Lake County. Top leadership, including president & CEO Jim Koziarz, Ph.D., EVP-Operations Steve Kuemmerle, Ph.D., and VP of Commercial Operations Richard “Rock” Marasco each spent more than 25 years at Abbott in various research and management roles.  Rounding out the AirAnswers management team is Director of Lab Operations, Rachel Reboulet, and VP Controlling, Russel Hunter.

Helix 51 provides a soft landing for early-stage and international life science companies in need of space and a nurturing environment in which to develop ideas. At the same time that AirAnswers was looking to expand, Rosalind Franklin University was celebrating the grand opening of Helix 51, and so AirAnswers was one of the first tenants to sign on at the facility. The partnership has yielded great success.


“Based on my industry experience, I knew that Lake County could accommodate our needs and provide unequaled access to talent and high net-worth investors who could help us take our product to market,” says Dr. Koziarz. “We connected with the Helix 51 incubator at a pivotal time in our company’s growth. We have an outstanding relationship with the university, and they’ve been exceptionally flexible as we have developed. In 2019, we signed on to initially occupy 1,600 sq. ft. space, and in August 2021 we expanded into about 6,800 sq. ft. on the fourth floor of the Innovation and Research Park as the first industry tenant. We have plans to further expand our footprint next year to coincide with our continued build-out of the space. We now have six lab specialists and technicians who provide cartridge testing and are developing our new products as we have transitioned from startup to early sales. Part of our success is undoubtedly the result of our location and the network that we have established in Lake County.”

Team leadership has spent recent months repositioning the company to key indoor air quality market segments, which in part led to the recent rebrand from Inspirotec to AirAnswers. The company is now in the process of sourcing new manufacturers for its next generation of products, and with Lake County’s thriving advanced manufacturing scene, the company will be looking locally.

“AirAnswers really is a model of what we’ve hoped to accomplish at the Helix 51 incubator,” notes Dr. Ronald Kaplan, EVP of Research at Rosalind Franklin University. “Local talent is fueling life science innovation and business growth in Lake County. Though we have a vast impact on healthcare, it’s remarkable to think about how small the life sciences world can be. Many of the partners, investors, affiliate organizations and leaders of our startups are interconnected and tied into nearby corporate giants. That’s why it’s so important for young companies in this industry to get the right start, in Lake County, where they can leverage our incredible network and resources.”


AirAnswers is one of many companies working with Lake County Partners to grow. Connect with us here to see how we can help your business expand in Lake County, Illinois.

Life Sciences Growth Starts Here

When the first boutique-inspired Hyatt Place Hotel in the world opens, you know it will be special. That’s certainly been the case with Lake County’s new Forester Hotel, a nature-inspired oasis in Lake Forest designed to inspire business meetings that flourish.

From that seed of an idea—to invest in a business-focused development on a prime piece of real estate along I-94—a larger concept has blossomed. And it’s one that is certain to benefit Lake County’s hot life sciences industry and tight real estate market.

Janko Group, an investment/development team that has been involved in excess of $1 billion of real estate deals and has a current portfolio of owned properties valued at nearly $500 million across a spectrum of industries including hospitality, office, industrial, retail and residential, purchased the Forester property and received a variance to develop the hotel. The group also owns the adjacent 6.13-acre property alongside the Forester and is now focused on developing the site with a state-of-the-art facility specifically built to accommodate life sciences uses.

“We have been investing in properties across the region for more than 30 years. Based on our experience, we feel that this property is the best possible location for life sciences, in the county and in the larger metro. It’s extremely visible, easy to access, and in close proximity to many of the country’s biggest industry leaders. This truly is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we know that the project will catapult the right company to the next level,” said Janko Group Founder and CEO Gary Janko.


The finished, access-controlled product will feature fourteen-foot ceilings, offices, first generation and column-free lab space, robust mechanical systems, multiple power voltages and backup power. In-demand wet lab space is also a possibility for the property. Importantly, it will also tie into the Forester Hotel next door to provide an additional 4,500 sq. ft. of flexible event space, a full-service bistro and bar, grab-and-go market, fitness center and comfortable hotel rooms and suites to accommodate visiting clients.

This opportunity couldn’t come at a better time. Lake County’s unique mix of life science and advanced manufacturing industry leaders has set it apart when it comes to doing business, and growth is off the charts. The area is consistently ranked among the top ten for life science clusters nationwide, in large part because it is home to many of the world’s leading brands, including AbbVie, Abbott, Baxter, Horizon Therapeutics and Pfizer.

Chicago’s northern suburbs also host the headquarters or major operations for many international leaders including Lundbeck, Astellas, Fresenius Kabi and Takeda. Include younger companies like Jaguar Gene Therapy and Nexus Pharmaceuticals along with the many fast-growing startups at Rosalind Franklin University’s Helix 51 incubator, and you have a vibrant life science ecosystem.

“The best thing about Lake County is that we can accommodate all stages of company growth,” says Lake County Partners Business Development Director Ron Lanz. “From the major startup activity that we’re seeing in smaller labs at Rosalind Franklin University, to larger properties like this one—Lake County has top-of-the-line spaces with in-demand amenities, transportation access and a stellar workforce that you just can’t find anywhere else.”


This huge concentration of industry leaders has indeed resulted in an enormous pool of talent. There are more than 5.6 million people within a commute radius from Lake County, and 40,000 of them work in life sciences. Lake County’s workforce not only includes seasoned professionals – there is a huge crop of young talent too, thanks to Chicagoland being the #1 destination for Big Ten university graduates. In fact, 46% of residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher, which is 13% greater than the national average.

With talent, comes great business success. Worldwide, local life science sales have accounted for $85 billion. Given the cost of doing business and living in Lake County, this amount can stretch much further than in peer areas like Boston, the Bay Area, San Diego and New Jersey. Chicagoland’s business operating index is a mere 98.3, compared to the average 101.9 seen in these counterparts. Here, effective tax rates are also competitive or lower, and electricity rates are much less—12.56 cent/kWh compared with Boston’s 21.11 cent/kWH, for example.

It’s Lake County’s affordability and high quality of life that keep businesses and residents coming. Award-winning communities feature nationally-ranked schools, making Lake County a destination for families and professionals who want to put down roots while building a rewarding career.

Enjoying life inside and out of the office is a pillar of Lake County’s work ethos, and it shows. Thankfully, projects like this one make the office element very, very attractive.


Lake County Partners has the resources and connections to help your company find the perfect spot and source the talent that you need. Connect with us here to explore this Janko Group opportunity or others.

Lake County is the Gateway to Global Markets

Lake County is a prime hub for regional, domestic and international markets. Its central location between Chicago and Milwaukee, along the I-94 corridor, provides convenient one-day access to a large swath of North American industry. The Port of Chicago and Waukegan Port District, coupled with Lake County’s state-of-the-art facilities, reliable rail lines, and transport routes put companies at a strategic crossroads for goods distribution. In fact, Illinois is the only state crossed by all seven of the nation’s class one rail lines.

Importantly, Lake County is also just a quick trip from three major international airports—Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport, O’Hare International and Chicago Midway International—as well as Waukegan National Airport, which includes a new customs building and handles private, corporate, business, executive and governmental aircraft operating in Northeast Illinois and Southeast Wisconsin.

When it comes to attracting talent and accommodating business needs, this strong multimodal connectivity makes recruiting and commuting around the region a snap – particularly as travel returns to pre-COVID levels.


Nearby Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport (MKE) has seen this travel surge first hand, and the airport is adding on new services to meet the growing demand and continue to deliver the first-rate experience for which it’s known.

MKE currently offers nonstop flights to 35+ destinations coast-to-coast, and more than 200 international destinations are available with just one connection. Through a convenient SmartPark app, travelers can reserve guaranteed parking spots and earn rewards.

As the world reopens, MKE has prioritized customer service, health, safety and convenience so that travelers taking to the sky feel comfortable to enjoy their recreational and business travel.

“We are proud to have recently earned our first Airports Council International (ACI) World Airport Service Quality (ASQ) Award for our success in delivering an outstanding customer experience at Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport,” said Airport Director Brian Dranzik. “This recognition is especially meaningful because it places us among the world’s best airports as voiced by travelers through independent surveys administered at the airport. We competed with airports across North America that have 5 – 15 million annual passengers, and we were one of only eight in the U.S. to receive the award in the Best Airport by Size and Region category. The award is the most coveted and prestigious customer experience honor any airport can receive.”

Many Lake County travelers find that MKE’s close proximity, service and affordable long-term parking make it an easy choice for leisure and business. Even more so, now that the airport has rolled out new and expanded services including:

  • JetBlue launched new daily nonstop services between MKE and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and Boston’s Logan International Airport (BOS), bringing a new and cost-effective airline option to the market. Enabled by JetBlue’s Northeast Alliance (NEA), this Milwaukee service expands the airline’s presence in the Midwest, while diversifying and advancing its New York and Boston focus city strategy.
  • Spirit Airlines added Myrtle Beach to its growing list of destinations served nonstop from Milwaukee. With low fares and a flight time of just over two hours, the new flights make it easy to enjoy South Carolina’s beachfront boardwalks and golf courses. The airline launched its Milwaukee service in June of last year, with daily nonstop flights from MKE to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Orlando. By the end of 2021, Spirit was also flying nonstops from Milwaukee to Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Tampa, Phoenix, and Cancun.
  • Air Canada also announced plans to resume daily nonstop service between Milwaukee and Toronto beginning July 1st. The route had previously been suspended since March 2020 due to COVID-19. Flying Air Canada to Toronto provides another convenient connection point for flights to Europe, Asia, South America, and beyond.

With the public’s growing comfort level, MKE projects a busy back half of 2022. “Our famous ‘Recombobulation Area’ is ready to safely welcome back travelers and help them efficiently get on their way and enjoy all that life has to offer. We encourage you to check out our flights and book the trip that you’ve been waiting on.” says Director Dranzik.


Take our interactive tour to see why Lake County, Illinois is perfectly positioned to support your growing business. Connect with us here to see how we can help your company get settled in Lake County, Illinois.

Going with a Gut Feeling

When the Chicago Tribune recently asked Congressman Brad Schneider to comment on the wave of biotech startups growing at Rosalind Franklin University’s Helix 51 incubator, he called Lake County “the home of the nation’s life science corridor.” Senator Tammy Duckworth echoed his enthusiasm, noting “it’s no surprise we’ve seen this incubator grow and thrive…This incubator and research park will only continue to make Lake County a leader, not only in our state but the entire region of biomedical research and innovation.”

Judging from the recent success at the incubator and the business growth happening more broadly across the county, the excitement is justified.

With 122 life science businesses (including some of the world’s largest) and an employment base of more than 33,000, Lake County is the proud home of the largest life sciences cluster in the Midwest. A slew of globally-recognized headquarters and cutting-edge startups, coupled with a strong educational support system, have made Lake County a hotbed of innovation. Local talent is fueling life science industry growth and advancing groundbreaking technologies that stand to revolutionize the way that illness is treated and medicine is practiced.

Nowhere is that better seen than at Rosalind Franklin University’s Helix 51 incubator. In the past six months alone, the incubator has signed on five new tenants – all of whom were looking to leverage Lake County’s resources and proximity to industry leaders. A key selling point of the facility and its location is the 15-minute drive time to many global powerhouses: Abbott and AbbVie in North Chicago, Baxter, Horizon and Lundbeck in Deerfield, and Pfizer in Lake Forest.

“Budding entrepreneurs do not have to be in downtown Chicago or another big city to access talent, innovation and cutting-edge spaces. You can find the building blocks of a successful business right here in Lake County, and we’re eager to help you put together the pieces and grow,” said Dr. Ronald Kaplan, EVP of Research at Rosalind Franklin University.

Many of the startups are strategically using their time at Helix 51 to forge connections, seek investments and acquire necessary approvals to advance to the next stage of development.


Covira is a biotech company spun out from the University of Chicago that develops drugs to modulate the gut microbiome. Its lead asset is focused on the prevention of post-surgical infections. Covira is productively using its time at Helix 51 to prepare for its next capital raise of $15 million needed to complete Phase 1 and Phase 2 of human clinical trials. The company projects that the FDA approval process could take 4 – 5 years to complete.

“We are really at the cutting-edge of microbiome research, and our work stands to prevent both the incidence and progression of post-surgical infection and its subsequent development of disability and mortality. Our team is led by Dr. John Alverdy, MD, a world authority in this field whose knowledge led us to be named one of the top twenty most innovative companies by Business Worldwide Magazine,” said Covira Surgical CEO Peter Farmakis. “We chose Helix 51 because we know that Lake County is the heart of the nation’s life science corridor. Here, we will be able to find the additional talent and investors that we need to successfully achieve Covira’s growth objectives.”

A recent company profile by Business Worldwide Magazine commended Covira, noting that its approach of using cutting-edge innovation to amplify the body’s natural protective capabilities and help it resist complications is incredibly unique. Covira is harnessing the power of the body’s gut microbiome—something that many researchers and medical professionals now understand is critical to overall health and well-being. Importantly, they are taking note of the way that the technology develops compounds that maintain and enhance a patient’s microbiome instead of adding onto, eliminating or replacing it.

With over 230 million surgeries performed worldwide every year, the work that Covira is doing couldn’t be any more timely or important. Despite advances in infection control practices, post-surgical infections remain a substantial cause of prolonged hospitalization, readmissions, morbidity and can lead to life-threatening sepsis or death. Preventing the extreme outcomes and saving lives is the driving force behind Covira’s mission.

Though the science behind the scenes is complex, Covira’s ecologically sustainable approach is relatively simple in practice. A patient mixes and drinks a tasteless, odorless and non-toxic solution before and after surgery; the oral solution coats the patient’s digestive tract and preserves the health-promoting gut microbiome while at the same time preventing the virulence (harmfulness) of pathogens that might proliferate during and after surgery. Covira sees their orally delivered medication as complementary to current surgical best practices in concert with other important infection control mechanisms such as prophylactic antibiotics, instrument sterilization, surgical technique, and proper ventilation.

Covira sees a gap in the market for their technology, and is preparing to fill it. The team is currently focused on filing an Investigational New Drug (IND) application and initiating phase 1 of its human clinical trials. From there, the company will then commence phase 2 of human clinical trials, with a target FDA approval of 2026. They have already secured one patent for their work, and have two additional patents pending.

The company has seen such initial success because of its leadership, largely bolstered by the deep life science talent bench found in Lake County and the broader Chicago metro. Covira’s team has extensive experience in business operations, including the recent addition to Covira’s Board of Directors – retired Abbott Laboratories Executive Officer Jaime Contreras.

In addition, Covira’s strong research and development team is supported by a Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) comprised of world-leading experts that bring a diversified set of experiences from top-rated hospitals and medical schools across the country. Covira’s SAB includes expertise in transplant surgery, bioengineering, host-microbe interactions, colon and rectal surgery, infectious disease, microbiome, molecular engineering, and polymer chemistry. The team can also lean on its business partners that includes a roster of well-known groups including the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, Argonne National Laboratory, the Polsky Center at The University of Chicago, Smart Health Catalyzer, Creative Destruction Lab and many others.

It’s this level of expertise that resulted in a recent invitation to present the company’s findings at the American Surgical Association’s 142nd meeting in Chicago. The American Surgical Association is the oldest surgical society in the U.S. and the most prestigious in the world. At its annual gathering in Chicago this year, Dr. John Alverdy, Covira’s Founder & Chief Scientific Officer was able to share the results of his team’s revolutionary research.

“There was an incredible undercurrent of excitement at the conference, and we were honored to have our ideas received so warmly by experts from across the country,” said Dr. Alverdy. “It’s gratifying to know that, from Lake County, Illinois, Covira Surgical will have a global impact.


Covira Surgical is one of many companies working with Lake County Partners to grow, as there are many reasons why life science companies thrive in Lake County. Connect with us here to see how we can help your business grow in Lake County, Illinois.

Lake County’s Proud Legacy of Sustainable Development

Lake County, Illinois’ exceptional quality of life is a huge attractor for businesses looking to grow, and for good reason. The area boasts of well-known companies offering rewarding career opportunities, nationally-ranked education and healthcare systems, affordable housing, short commutes, fiscal responsibility, strong stakeholder partnerships, and an interesting mix of urban downtowns and natural areas that include over 50,000 acres of protected forest preserves and open space, 550 miles of interconnected trails and bikeways, award-winning golf courses, 40 miles of beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline and over 200 lakes and rivers with unlimited boating, fishing and swimming opportunities.

Living in Lake County means that you can climb the corporate ladder and still take time to enjoy the things that matter. With a strong balance of top-quality communities, leading employers, convenient commuter options and a wide variety of outdoor activities and entertainment venues, you can truly work and play in Lake County.

Importantly, there is also a strong commitment to maintaining Lake County’s prominence as a sustainability leader. “Green” is embedded in the way that public agencies do business, developments are built, companies and residents are supported, and incentives are crafted. As a result, Lake County and the broader Illinois community has seen an uptick in LEED-certified development, resulting in the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) recently ranking the state #1 for LEED development in the entire country.


A prominent example of this is at the College of Lake County (CLC) – a long-time champion and role model of sustainability – where an established Sustainability Plan guides campus development to ensure that best practices are incorporated into daily operations across all three college locations and within curriculum.

In 2019, USGBC awarded CLC’s Science and Engineering Building with LEED Platinum certification—this is the highest level of accreditation achievable within the LEED rating system, and the project earned more points than any other LEED-certified new construction project in Illinois that year.

Currently, CLC is transforming an existing Lowe’s in Gurnee to serve as a state-of-the-art Advanced Technology Center (ATC) that will fuel Lake County’s manufacturing talent pipeline. In repurposing the space, CLC is placing special emphasis on its sustainable elements, while also exploring curriculum that can help technicians build competency around energy savings in manufacturing environments.

CLC has also made recent news for being among a select group of partners in the region to rally around major initiatives related to manufacturing and supply chain, workforce development, applied research, entrepreneurship, commercialization and infrastructure as part of the 2025 Clean Tech Economic Coalition (CTEC) – this effort is headed up by mHUB, a Chicago-based hardtech and manufacturing innovation center that has been recognized by the U.S. Economic Development Administration for its potential to accelerate the Chicago region’s adoption of clean energy technologies.

CLC’s sustainability goals include: minimizing energy consumption by using renewable energy resources and improving building efficiency, conserving water, including environmental and social considerations in purchases and procurement procedures, expanding alternate modes of transportation, decreasing food waste in dining areas, and creating sustainable landscapes. To celebrate all that it has achieved, CLC hosts a series of events each year to commemorate Earth Week. Click here to learn how to participate.

“At CLC, we are strategically building a talent pipeline to support the needs of local businesses. It is important that we provide our students with a state-of-the-art experience so that they leave inspired and ready to put their education and skills to work as they pursue careers in Lake County,” said CLC’s Sustainability Manager David Husemoller.

The Lake County Division of Transportation (LCDOT) is another key player in sustainability efforts. Each year, LCDOT’s workplan seeks to incorporate bikeways constructed from recycled asphalt shingles, living snow fences, water quality and filtration basins and native vegetation. Click here to review the $90 Million 2022 Construction Plan. To ensure that Lake County’s spaces stay special, LCDOT also coordinates an Adopt-A-Highway program to provide opportunities to care for local roadways and prevent litter.

“We take sustainability seriously in all of our projects across the county, and it pays off in more than scenic views. Our investments have helped local travelers reduce time in the car, fuel consumption, carbon dioxide emissions and traffic congestion while saving money at the pump. Ultimately, the savings add up to benefit both employers and employees,” said LCDOT Director Shane Schneider.


This year, Lake County also teamed up with the Illinois Energy Conservation Authority (IECA) to introduce an innovative initiative – the Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy Program (C-PACE) – that has been designed to provide fixed-rate, long-term, and non-recourse financing for commercial property owners of private buildings, making it fully transferable with the property during the term of the loan. Property owners may obtain up to 100 percent financing from private capital providers for eligible improvements such as HVAC, lighting and solar photovoltaic (PV) systems and other improvements in both existing buildings and new construction projects. One of the distinguishing features of C-PACE is that it is secured by a special assessment lien on the property and is repaid as a line item on the property tax bill.

“The business benefits of C-PACE are immense,” says IECA Director of Business Development Anna Maria Kowalik. “The financing even covers soft costs necessary to design, engineer, install and finance the project. Typically, these projects can reduce operating costs, increase property values and generate net positive cash flow on improvements within the first year – especially through increased utility savings.”

With its emphasis on promoting responsible economic development and enhancing affordable clean energy options, ComEd is also at the forefront of a local sustainability push. Illinois’ electric rates continue to compare favorably with other states, and ComEd supports customers considering locating or expanding in Lake County instead of other states by providing a customized energy analysis comparison. Learn more in this new Fact Sheet.

“ComEd and Lake County Partners maintain a strategic partnership where we work closely to support the growth of new and existing businesses in the area – with a focus on equitable development that benefits all communities,” notes ComEd External Affairs Manager Darren Boundy. “To help Lake County retain and expand investments in the area, our ComEd team works closely in partnership to help business customers take advantage of energy efficiency opportunities including incentives, facility assessments and building optimization measures. ComEd also supports customers’ sustainability goals by offering solar rebates and working with them to analyze beneficial electrification opportunities for their buildings and vehicle fleets.”

Click here to connect with us and see how we can help your business tap into available resources to responsibly grow your company in Lake County.