Author: Lake County Partners

Passion in Search of a Solution

Lake County, Illinois is making its mark as the home of the next generation of life science leaders.

Groundbreaking healthcare advancements require talent, passion, support and a dedication to problem-solving. With COVID’s lasting impact on the way that we assess risk and make decisions, we have relied on life science innovations to help us navigate unfamiliar terrain. After all, having timely information in the form of test results not only helps people make informed decisions – it also helps employers improve workplace safety, while keeping healthy employees productive.

As the past several years have given rise to self-administered tests, savvy consumers have been empowered by fast results that provide clear direction. For many, deciding whether or not to attend family outings, sporting events or work functions in-person is now as simple as a self-screening diagnostic test.

Risk assessments have been particularly important for the 28.8 million employees in 544,000 essential worksites across the country that have kept industries like manufacturing, transportation, warehousing, law enforcement, construction and retail running throughout the pandemic.

Though COVID tests have dominated headlines, other equally important screenings—like those used to test for flu, substance abuse, chronic disease and tobacco use—have long histories of use in the workplace. Unfortunately, those tests are traditionally handled by off-site vendors, which can be inconvenient for employees and employers. At up to $120 a test, routine offsite screenings are also prohibitively expensive.


Knowing that convenient rapid tests could maximize employee participation while minimizing cost and workday disruptions, a group of Chicago-area graduates from Northwestern University, University of Chicago and Loyola University Chicago banded together to found Everyplace Labs. Their goal: to revolutionize workplace testing by creating a new onsite medical device. Though the team worked corporate jobs by day, they could be found working nights and weekends together as they bootstrapped the venture. As is the case with many start-ups, the best inventions start outside of the lab.

“Lake County’s incredible life science ecosystem has nurtured our ideas and helped us recruit a stellar roster of advisors. Through my professional work at Baxter and Fresenius, I learned how to develop and take new medical devices from early concept through regulatory approval. We have brought on other Lake County-area alums from Abbott and Shire, and this local talent is fueling our success,” said Everyplace Labs CEO Michael Tu.

As Everyplace Labs expanded its team and began to build out its technology, it explored opportunities for lab space in the region and landed on Rosalind Franklin University’s Helix 51 incubator in North Chicago as its location of choice. The start-up joins a slew of other life science companies—including ARTEC Biotech and Covira Surgical—that have leveraged the incubator’s amenities and talent to grow.

Helix 51 fosters the development of biotechnology and medical device companies by providing a soft-landing zone for these early-stage and international life science companies and providing scientists, doctors, pharmacologists and engineers an innovative space in which to advance ideas and build life-saving tools.

“We came to Rosalind Franklin’s Helix 51 incubator at a pivotal time in our company’s growth,” noted Everyplace Labs COO Claire Zhou. “As an early-stage diagnostic company, it was important for us to have access to an affordable, state-of-the-art lab space. Helix 51 fit our unique needs, from both a price and spec standpoint. Having the appropriate physical space to do testing has allowed us to complete critical technical milestones. In addition, the Helix 51 Incubator Entrepreneurs-In-Residence (EIRs) program has provided tremendous value beyond physical space—advising us on fundraising strategy, grant writing, intellectual property, regulatory and more.”

“Helix 51 is abuzz with the energy that comes from vibrant start-ups and creative talent. We have seen a huge influx of companies looking to leverage Rosalind Franklin University’s biomedical research expertise and tap into the wealth of experience that comes from Lake County’s incredible concentration of Fortune 500 headquarters and industry leaders,” said Dr. Ronald Kaplan, Executive Vice President of Research and champion of the new Innovation and Research Park and Helix 51 Incubator at Rosalind Franklin University.


Since setting up in Lake County, Everyplace Labs has developed a self-service kiosk that, initially, has been automated for rapid, lateral flow COVID antigen tests at essential worksites. The prototype has exceeded the team’s early expectations. It both provides a 5-minute testing option for employees while giving employers the comfort of a cost-effective, high-throughput, turnkey solution. Key features of the cutting-edge kiosk include:

  • Screen with instructions and digital mirror that guides patients through the sample collection process;
  • Automated testing process, including sample-reagent mixing, sample dispensing and result interpretation;
  • Built-in test kit dispenser that stores and tracks test kits for automated replenishment;
  • Built-in sanitation capabilities, including conversion of medical waste into municipal waste, antimicrobial surfaces and automated cleaning of testing surfaces;
  • Automated testing process, including sample-reagent mixing, sample dispensing & result interpretation; and,
  • Flexible reporting capabilities, through which results are sent to employees, employers receive test results in cases of mandatory testing, and employees can opt-in to share results with a remote provider for follow-up.

Employers are drawn to the kiosk because of its ease of use, and also because it requires no capital equipment cost, and all services are handled directly by Everyplace Labs. The company is scaling up to support installation, annual maintenance, servicing, user support, automated test replenishment/medical waste treatment, and integration with remote telehealth providers.


Through customer discovery, Everyplace Labs validated the marketplace need for its kiosk product and found two partners with which to explore testing of its beta prototype—mHUB and Nemera. The team also recently observed user interactions with the kiosk at Rosalind Franklin University, collecting feedback from essential workers in the Lake County area.

Nemera is a fascinating case study that demonstrates the synergy between Everyplace Labs and another Lake County-based company. This Buffalo Grove device manufacturer has 430 local employees, and it welcomed Everyplace Labs in to conduct a survey on employees’ COVID testing preferences. Among the employees surveyed, 74% were interested in the kiosk testing option.

Based on preliminary customer feedback and feedback from essential workers, Everyplace Labs has been able to refine its product in preparation for clinical trials this spring. Promisingly, benchtop testing conducted in the development of the functional prototype showed better accuracy versus an in-market diagnostic system.

The next step of product development will demonstrate the sensitivity and specificity of the beta-kiosk when used by patients, particularly in a high-volume community health clinic setting. Results will be compared against the gold-standard PCR test. From there, Everyplace Labs will advance to a commercial pilot to measure the impact of an Everyplace-enabled testing program on employee satisfaction and workplace productivity.

The initial success of the Nemera pilot is promising for the long-term growth of Everyplace Labs, particularly as the company begins to branch out and incorporate a suite of other tests into its kiosks. The company is leaning into the tailwinds of a tight labor market to drive early adoption among target customers.

At current course and speed, Everyplace Labs expects to complete a commercial product later this year with an optimized design for manufacturing, at which point it will complete final testing for FDA consideration and submission. By summer of 2023, Everyplace Labs is targeting to achieve FDA and EUA approval so that the company can begin sales and distribution, with a priority of serving early pilot partners. The company recently achieved an important milestone when it received a notice of allowance for the issuance of its first patent from the U.S. Patent Office. This patent will provide a level of exclusivity from potential competitors.


Everyplace Labs is one of many companies working with Lake County Partners to grow, as there are countless reasons why life science companies thrive in Lake County. The young startup is at an exciting stage of its development, and it is looking to forge connections with other area employers that might be interested in participating in pilot trials of the Everyplace Labs kiosk. Connect with us here to see how we can help your company tap into this unique opportunity or access other business resources.

The RISE of Diverse & Women-Owned Small Business

Lake County businesses have benefitted from a variety of strategic programs and investment designed to offset the impact of the pandemic. Recovery is underway, and there has been a surge in development — particularly in key industries like life science, advanced manufacturing, healthcare and technology.

Though the Lake County economy has seen huge gains, current events have undeniably shone a light on the need to support small businesses and advance diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives that create inviting workspaces and nurture talent. The National Bureau of Economic Research has found that from February through April 2020, Black-owned businesses declined by 41%, Latinx-owned businesses declined by 32%, and Asian-owned businesses declined by 25%; these losses were much more pronounced than the 21% decline seen in the general population.

Furthermore, according to a study by the National Association of Women Business Owners, 42% of businesses in the United States are owned by women, with more than 1,800 new businesses started every day – that’s nearly five times the national average. However, according to the same study, women-owned businesses are growing at only half the rate of those run by men, mainly because women struggle to access capital and other resources needed for success.

Small business is the life-blood of the economy. Long-term economic development and fiscal strength relies on an even playing field for all businesses, which is why additional effort is needed to offset the losses seen since the start of the pandemic. Fortunately, recently-launched programs like Comcast RISE (Representation, Investment, Strength & Empowerment) are providing new opportunities to pursue funding and resources that can further aid in recovery.


As part of its $1 billion commitment to advance digital equity and reach 50 million people over the next 10 years, Comcast is leading by example and rolling out its comprehensive Comcast RISE program, which stands for “Representation, Investment, Strength and Empowerment. Comcast RISE has been created to help small businesses owned by people of color, including Black, Indigenous, Hispanic, and Asian Americans, as well as women.

The program provides benefits that support several focus areas including: consulting, media, creative production, technology and finance. Since it first rolled out, the program has helped nearly 8,000 small businesses in 590 cities across the United States – including more than 600 small businesses in the local region. In just the first year since the program began, Comcast RISE has provided over $60 million in direct assistance to businesses through marketing services from Comcast’s advertising sales division, Effectv, technology services from Comcast Business, and monetary grants.

In Lake County, more than 20 small businesses have been selected as Comcast RISE recipients, from beauty salons and restaurants to HVAC and flooring services.

“The technology makeover award that we received through Comcast RISE gave our business access to advanced internet speeds and tech products that have helped us thrive. As a growing company, we have been able to leverage incentives like RISE and Lake County’s positive business climate to serve the local community and reach new audiences,” said Fernando Mateo, President of Delfino Refrigeration Inc. in Lake Villa.


The program just launched a new round of applications and recently expanded its eligibility to include all women-owned small businesses. As a result, Comcast RISE is now on track to support over 13,000 business nationwide by the end of the year, and many of them stand to be located in Lake County and Chicagoland.

There are separate applications for the marketing and technology service awards and the Comcast RISE Investment Fund. Eligible business owners may apply for the marketing and technology services at any point now through June 17. Click here to review a full list of qualifications, awards and to apply for Comcast RISE.

The Top 5 Reasons to Locate Your Advanced Manufacturing Business in Lake County, Illinois

There are countless reasons why Lake County, Illinois is a hotspot for advanced manufacturing leaders like Caterpillar, Abbott, AbbVie, Akzo Nobel, Echo, Grainger and HydraForce. We’re breaking down the top 5 to show how the area’s immense talent, reliable infrastructure and spirit of innovation can take your business to the next level. Connect with us to tap into Lake County’s many business assets and help your company grow.


Lake County has a pipeline of well-trained, qualified and eager workers who excel in a manufacturing environment. There are 5.6 million people within a commute radius of Lake County, 52,313 of whom specifically specialize in manufacturing—this is TWICE the manufacturing talent than the national average for similarly-sized communities.

Importantly, the workforce is also diverse; females represent 41%, and 150,000 foreign-born community members bring a wide variety of valuable perspectives and experience to the table to fuel your business.


Lake County’s tremendous workforce is largely owed to the infrastructure of education that supports it. Through tours of state-of-the-art facilities, students and teachers are exposed to the rewarding career paths available in manufacturing.

Connections between students and companies are further reinforced at institutions like the Lake County Tech Campus, which is widely-regarded as one of the best career and technical education training facilities in the Midwest. The Tech Campus has the largest career technical secondary educational system in Illinois, representing over 2,000 high school students from 22-member high schools in both Lake and McHenry counties.

At the College of Lake County (CLC), a state-of-the art Advanced Technology Center is under construction in Gurnee, with plans for an opening this fall. It will provide 182,000 sq. ft. of new hands-on learning space and become the focus of economic development opportunities for welding and numeric control (CNC). CLC’s capacity to meet demands has also been expanded by the college’s recent investment in its Lakeshore campus, which brought welding and mechatronics to downtown Waukegan and doubled its capacity for the programs.

At CLC, 40% of majors directly correlate with the most in-demand jobs, and the school offers 35 career programs; through business intel (including that provided by Lake County Partners) CLC is able to efficiently tailor its programs and ensure that graduates have the skills that employers need.


Lake County is the second largest manufacturing county in the entire state of Illinois, and the industry is a true powerhouse when it comes to jobs and revenue. Advanced manufacturing generates $35.7 billion in economic output per year, contributes more than 30% of Lake County’s gross domestic product and employs 1 in 7 workers.

Not only is advanced manufacturing an important economic development engine, its sheer strength in Lake County can be counted on to attract industry leaders, highly-skilled employees, and investments—these add up, which is why Lake County has celebrated manufacturers investing $180 million in land, buildings, equipment and more over the past several years.

Importantly, local civic leaders understand manufacturing’s huge economic impact in Lake County, and they make strategic decisions and investments to support continued growth.


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 and reliable rail lines, put companies at a strategic crossroads for goods distribution. Illinois is the only state crossed by all seven of the nation’s class one rail lines.

Lake County also offers easier access to O’Hare International Airport than downtown Chicago, as well as convenient travel by way of three nearby major airports, four commuter rail lines and a strategic network of bus services. When it comes to attracting talent and accommodating business travel needs, this strong multimodal connectivity makes recruiting and commuting around the region a snap.


Manufacturers looking to relocate to or expand in Lake County benefit from a business-friendly environment full of leaders who want to nurture long-term economic development success. Lake County is home to a variety of flexible and rapidly-growing developments, including Bridge Point North in Waukegan, the South Lake Industrial Center in Vernon Hills, the Cornerstone development in Grayslake and the Antioch Business Park, that have been designed to give manufacturers the modern amenities that they need.

Lake County Partners’ extensive resources and connections make it easy for your manufacturing company to find space, work through permitting, identify incentives and available tax credits, access reliable and affordable utilities and tap into the exact talent that will drive your business forward.


As Lake County’s economic development engine, Lake County Partners is uniquely qualified to leverage local assets to benefit your manufacturing business. Connect with us and we’ll make your next big business decision easy.

Perfecting the Art of Engineering Cells in Lake County, Illinois

Lake County is the proud home of the largest life sciences cluster in the Midwest and 80% of life science jobs in the state of Illinois. Its roster 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 we treat illness and practice medicine.

Nowhere is this more evident than at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science (RFUMS), a highly-regarded institution in North Chicago that is fostering bioscience through its Helix 51 incubator. 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 – precisely what ARTEC Biotech, Inc. (ARTEC) sought to get off the ground and running with its life-sustaining cellular therapy, made possible through genetic engineering.


ARTEC is led by an incredible team of scientists joined in their mission to develop cellular therapy products to improve longevity and quality of life. The company seeks to address an ongoing issue with cancer treatments in which some forms of cancer relapse, do not respond to, or resist therapies.

Given the highly-complex nature of ARTEC’s technologies, the company was in search of a specialized and affordable laboratory space with state-of-the-art equipment and a network of industry experts that could provide guidance on intellectual property rights and business strategy. It was a tall order, but one that RFUMS’s Helix 51 incubator was built to fulfill.

ARTEC quickly realized that the nimble, academically-driven environment of scientists and industry experts at Helix 51 provided unmatched potential for growth and collaboration. The company signed on, and immediately tapped into the many resources and opportunities available to life science companies in Lake County.


ARTEC’s pioneering technology and international reach has made it a prime example of Lake County’s important role in the global biotech industry. The company has flourished at Helix 51, forging new collaborations and exploring funding possibilities to take its technology to the next level.

The effort is led by Dr. Vasil Galat, Ph.D. — an expert at the forefront of stem cell biology and a former associate professor of pathology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, where, as director, he led the stem cell core facility at Lurie Children’s Hospital.

His colleague, Dr. Igor Beletsky, Ph.D. is an expert in molecular and tumor biology in Moscow, Russia; aside from his tremendous scientific contribution, Dr. Beletsky also serves as an ARTEC representative in the Eastern European market.

COO Yekaterina Galat, MSM, has called upon her years of experience in Natural Killer (NK) cell differentiation and propagation to lead the development of the technology that became the subject of the provisional patent application and greatly strengthened ARCTEC’s IP portfolio.

The team is developing a potent NK cell-based immunotherapeutic product for cancer treatment that is based on aversion of the immunosuppressive signaling of cancer cells. This treatment avoids the common harsh side effects of current standard of care treatments and the risk of Graft Vs. Host Disease (GVHD) associated with newer cancer treatments like CAR-T. It is the first “off-the-shelf” live NK cell therapy developed from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) that does not require co-administration of check-point inhibitors to improve efficiency. ARTEC’s technology allows the introduction of genetic modifications at the iPSC level, and then differentiating them to adult cell types. Such an approach allows for an unlimited clonal expansion, thus greatly reducing the source variability and the number of batch verifications for off-the-shelf products.

In bringing its expertise to Lake County, ARTEC increases its attractiveness for companies that are looking for iPSC-derived cell technologies to advance their gene target identification, drug screening, and disease modeling research.

“As far as we know, we are the only ones in the Chicago-area with the expert knowledge to produce vascular and blood cells from iPSC. We are excited to bring this cutting-edge technology to Lake County, and to partner with academics or companies that are interested in utilizing iPSC-derived endothelial, mesenchymal, or blood cells to advance their own research and product development,” said COO Yekaterina Galat.

“I feel very fortunate that we crossed paths with RFUMS and the Helix 51 incubator. Through the university and its talented faculty, we have been introduced to Lake County’s flourishing life science ecosystem and made connections that will be integral to our next stage of growth and development. The location will be a gamechanger for our company,” noted CEO Vasil Galat.


As the agency charged with driving economic development in Lake County, Illinois, Lake County Partners is well-equipped to provide the resources and connections needed to fuel growing life science and biotech companies. Contact us here to see how we can help your business move forward.

The Time Is Right To Build a Vision for Lake County

For the last several months, LCP has convened business, education, workforce development and civic leaders to collaboratively align economic priorities across the region through a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) process. This effort was driven by a Steering Committee comprised of members representing a variety of interests from both the public and private sectors. As we worked through the CEDS process, we refined a vision statement and some guiding principles, analyzed data, convened a series of stakeholder roundtables and interviews, worked through a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats assessment (SWOT), and developed a set of goals, strategies and actions for the next five years.


Over the last decade, the Lake County economy has enjoyed strong gains, especially in key industries like advanced manufacturing, corporate headquarters, and life sciences. Manufacturing has seen a huge uptick in development and new jobs, and important investments have been made to strengthen the talent pipeline and support continued growth. In the case of life sciences, Lake County’s talent and deep bench of startups, mid-level companies and global giants like Abbott, AbbVie, Baxter and Horizon Therapeutics have made it the proud home of one of the largest industry clusters in the country.

Though all economic development growth supports the well-being of the county as a whole, a strategic plan to leverage the success will ensure that the entire community benefits from it. Having an actionable plan in the form of a CEDS will give local leaders the tools they need to provide equitable opportunities, seek funding, remain competitive and make the most of Lake County’s tremendous potential.


In leading the development of the CEDS, it has been a priority to include input from a wide variety of stakeholders. For this reason, the draft CEDS is available for a 30 day public comment period; you can read the draft CEDS and submit your thoughts here. There are a few key things to keep in mind as you review the CEDS:

  1. It is a high-level roadmap for economic development, not a work plan.
  2. While economic development has historically been synonymous with job growth, a tight labor market and prevailing demographics mean that we need to take a more holistic approach, which requires the integration a broader range of systems and partners. As a result, the plan contemplates areas like housing growth and early childhood education—issues that haven’t always been part of economic development discussions. This means that LCP won’t necessarily drive all of the initiatives in the plan, but because these systems all contribute to our economic future, they are included in the CEDS.
  3. It is a five-year plan, and some of the goals will take even longer to bear fruit.


While there are definitely strategies in the CEDS that will have an impact soon, we are focused on the long game and making smart investments now that will pay dividends well into the future. A key motivator to complete a CEDS document is the fact that projects in alignment with the CEDS may be eligible for federal funding opportunities through the Economic Development Administration.

While the last few years have presented plenty of challenges, we’re fortunate to be launching our CEDS during a time of once-in-a-generation public investments in the economy. Lake County has enjoyed many recent business successes, and the time to build on them is now.


As Lake County’s go-to economic development corporation, LCP is fortunate to have earned a $110,000 federal grant to fund and lead the development of the CEDS. The CEDS would not have been possible without the contributions of a broad group of people from across Lake County. Our Steering Committee, stakeholders who participated in roundtables, interviews and workshops, and all those who shared their comments have had a hand in developing this plan. The CEDS process has greatly benefited from the expertise offered by the project’s consultant, Austin-based TIP Strategies. Learn more about the CEDS here.

It was a Banner Year for Advanced Manufacturing

This year, Lake County celebrated a flurry of new businesses and expansions, and nowhere was this more pronounced than in advanced manufacturing. With Lake County’s incredible streak of industry growth over the past several years, 2021 was the punctuation mark on recent record-levels of new jobs and investment.

Since 2019, manufacturers have added 520 new jobs and directly invested $180 million in land, buildings and equipment. Manufacturing is a true powerhouse when it comes to job and revenue generation as it now contributes to more than 27% of Lake County’s gross domestic product and employs 1 in 7 workers. Lake County’s talent—which is diverse, highly-skilled and TWICE the national average for a similar sized region—is certainly contributing to this success. Employers are taking note.

Lake County Partners spent the year working directly with businesses, partners like the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and the College of Lake County, and public sector leaders to secure deals and land wins. From pizza to manufactured goods and the packages that they go into, you can find it all in Lake County. Here are a few of the advanced manufacturing highlights of 2021:

  • AZ Polymers broke ground for a new facility in Gurnee, while Fischer Paper Products in Antioch, Belle Aire Creations in Round Lake Park and Mighty Hook in Waukegan cut ribbons to celebrate expansions.

  • Fifty-year old, beloved pizza chain Lou Malnati’s consolidated its corporate offices, manufacturing and fulfillment in Buffalo Grove to respond to rapid growth.

  • Amazon finished work on its third Waukegan facility, increasing the number of people working for the company in the city to 1,000 in more than 1.1 million square feet of space.

  • Medline, one of the world’s leading manufacturers and suppliers of medical supplies, continued to expand its Lake County footprint with three facilities, two offices and a 1.4 million sq. ft. Grayslake distribution center that is the fifth largest in the world.

  • Power transmission component manufacturer HM Manufacturing looked to add a new shift in Wauconda, with the company anticipating up to 26% growth by the end of the year.

  • Medical device manufacturer Medical Murray completed state-of-the-art expansions at its facilities in North Barrington and Lake Zurich.

  • The College of Lake County gathered community leaders together for a beam signing to commemorate advancement on its new Advanced Technology Center that will offer in-demand manufacturing training to fortify Lake County’s strong talent pipeline.

We want to add your company to the list of next year’s success stories. Contact us here to request our support and services, all of which are free thanks to the support of our investors.

2021 Was A Big Year for Celebration in Lake County

Lake County celebrated an unprecedented string of business wins in 2021. The county’s strong mix of life science, advanced manufacturing and professional services powered the economy forward, leading to nearly 61,000 employees returning to work since the start of the pandemic.

Local leadership, coupled with Lake County’s legacy of public-private partnership, has created a framework to support business—leading to $317 million in direct capital investment over the last three years. In that same time frame, nearly 3,000 new jobs have been created, and over 4,000 have been retained. Lake County Partners is honored to have played a role in the success, and is fortunate to have received the Partnership Award from the International Economic Development Council for developing the tools to drive business forward.

Congratulations to the following businesses for investing in Lake County and giving us plenty of opportunities to gather and celebrate our collective success this year:

Horizon Therapeutics Headquarters

After buying the 70-acre former Takeda property in Deerfield, the company unveiled its exciting plans for the space and began welcome employees back to a cutting-edge office.

Fischer Paper Products Grand Opening

This long-standing Lake County manufacturer celebrated the completion of its new headquarters in Antioch, paving the way for new jobs and anticipated growth that will increase its workforce 10% each year for the next 5 – 10 years.

AZ Polymers Groundbreaking

This exciting project came to fruition thanks to collaboration among the Village of Gurnee, Illinois DCEO and Lake County Partners, setting the stage for a new manufacturing facility and creating 25 new jobs.

Mighty Hook Ribbon Cutting

The advanced manufacturer purchased a new facility and moved its headquarters to Waukegan, where the company now has capacity for continued growth and can establish a robust training program to upskill employees.

Hawthorn Mall 2.0 Renovation

A $250 million dollar renovation on this property to transform it into a regional lifestyle center has made the project one of the biggest and most anticipated projects in Vernon Hills history.

Customs Building Ribbon Cutting

A $2 million investment made a new customs facility possible at Waukegan National Airport, ensuring that the airport complies with strict Department of Homeland Security requirements and allowing general aviation flyers to quickly and efficiently clear customs.

Belle Aire Creations Ribbon Cutting

The unique fragrance manufacturer celebrated its latest Lake County expansion with a new, sustainable Round Lake Park facility that quadrupled its local manufacturing footprint. Belle Aire Creations will further grow at a new Libertyville location set to open in 2022.

College of Lake County Investments

The College of Lake County continues to make important investments to meet the workforce demands of today and tomorrow. A new $2 million donation has given a big boost to the new Advanced Technology Center in Gurnee to offer in-demand manufacturing training. In Waukegan, construction continued on the new Lakeshore Campus Student Center—a cutting-edge facility that will further strengthen Lake County’s talent pipeline.

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.

Economic Development Benefits from Strong Regional Transportation

The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) is currently developing the 2023 Regional Transit Strategic Plan for Northeastern Illinois to address challenges and leverage opportunities for transportation. RTA is making a concerted effort to engage and collaborate with stakeholders, and Lake County Partners’ president and CEO Kevin Considine was honored to recently share the organization’s thoughts in the following Q & A blog post. Learn more about the plan and share your input here.

Why are you passionate about transit?

As a suburban economic development organization, people generally think that our work is about recruiting companies to invest in Lake County—and that’s definitely part of our mandate. A growing part of our work, however, is about making sure that other systems like education, housing, and transportation and transit networks are built in ways that make it possible for people to work and lead balanced lives. If we think holistically and build those networks of systems to support workers and the businesses that employ them, companies and talented individuals will choose Lake County. Transit is an important part of that multi-dimensional approach to economic development.

What do you see as the greatest challenge and opportunities for the Chicago region’s transit system over the next ten years? What is the biggest barrier to realizing these opportunities?

One of the biggest opportunities for transit systems is the rather unprecedented break in the way that things have always been done. Before the pandemic, for example, some transit schedules in Lake County had been static for decades. In many cases, this meant that service schedules favored the 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. worker and assumed that the primary role of the transit system was to get workers from homes in the suburbs to office buildings downtown, but that’s not the case anymore. One in seven jobs in Lake County is in the manufacturing industry, which is a 24/7 workplace and happens in industrial parks that usually aren’t in the city centers. The biggest obstacle will be the pressure to “return to normal” instead of moving on to a way of operating that best serves those who need transit most.

Looking ahead, what future force of change has the greatest potential to transform or disrupt our region’s transit system?

Even before the pandemic, we were facing shifts in the ways people work (the rise of the gig economy and the impacts of automation), the ways people shop (the explosion of e-commerce and multi-channel retail), and the ways families live (an interest in a broader mix of housing typologies within walkable communities). The pandemic threw gasoline onto these fires of change, and I don’t think that we’ve yet seen things settle out yet. This has ripple effects over lots of policy issues, including transit.

Decades of underfunding have left the transit system in a constant state of austerity. Tradeoffs are almost always necessary when making decisions about improvement and expansion of the system. How do you recommend investing in the system to achieve the greatest regional impact?

Limits on resources will always be a challenge. We need to think of our regional transit as a true multi-modal network, not as separate transit systems that each operate in their own. Can we think about service, facilities, and operations in a truly integrated way regardless of what kind of vehicle is being used? Instead of thinking about how to allocate funds across city vs. suburbs and buses vs. trains, we need to zoom out and look at the big picture. Funding sources will be most effectively leveraged, and users will be most effectively served if we think about how these systems can function together.

What can we learn from efforts to advance equity in other public spheres and apply to transit to make a tangible difference?

Moving forward to a more just and equitable future will only be possible when conversations about planning (transit or otherwise) are done in an intersectional and expansive way. This definitely means including a diverse group of those who already use or even depend on transit but needs to go further to include those who haven’t traditionally ridden transit to better understand why they haven’t. How can we grow those who are engaged in the conversation and those who use the system? Who are the partners in transit that may not yet realize that they have a stake in the transit future? For example, pre-pandemic, we worked with Metra and a group of employers to fund a pilot of expanded reverse– commute train service. To our knowledge, it was the first privately funded public transit program in the region. How can we build on that idea to grow the discussion and find new solutions?

Regional mobility impacts everyone but is competing for attention among many worthy public policy issues. What, in your experience, has been the most successful way to engage people about transit issues?

In many ways, transit in and of itself, isn’t the most compelling topic. What can be compelling, however, are all the things that transit can support. The conversation isn’t really one about transit because transit is really just a means to an end. Transit allows us to have more sustainable communities. Transit allows us to improve our quality of life by reducing congestion and traffic. Transit allows everyone access to employment, healthcare and recreational opportunities that make living in our region great. When you think about it that way, transit’s value is more clear and compelling.

Why We Are So Excited to Celebrate Manufacturing Month

Earlier this year, the Chicago Tribune reported on Lake County’s huge boom in advanced manufacturing. The article discussed why local trends are emblematic of those seen nationwide—the industry has seen record growth as the economy expands and continues to recover from the pandemic. Month after month, manufacturing has continued to expand, with many companies creating new jobs and adding shifts to meet increased demand. Simply put, there has never been a better time to celebrate October’s “Manufacturing Month” than this year.

In Lake County, the second largest manufacturing county in Illinois, COVID-19 merely accelerated a trend that was already in place. Over the last two years, manufacturers have added 520 new factory jobs and invested approximately $180 million in land, buildings, equipment and more. Advanced manufacturing now employs nearly 51,000 people in Lake County, generating $35.7 billion in economic output per year and contributing more than 27% of Lake County’s gross domestic product. With 1 in 7 workers now in manufacturing, the industry is a major driving force in Lake County’s economy.


Top talent, advanced manufacturing innovations, leading-edge technology, reliable infrastructure, affordability and location are among the many factors driving local industry growth. Lake County has a pipeline of well-trained, qualified and eager workers who excel in a manufacturing environment. In fact, with Lake County’s 52,313 industry workers, it has TWICE the manufacturing talent than the national average. Importantly, the workforce is also diverse, with females representing 41%.

Lake County’s tremendous workforce is largely owed to the infrastructure of education that supports it. Through tours of state-of-the-art facilities, students and teachers are exposed to the rewarding career paths available in manufacturing. Connections between students and companies are further reinforced at institutions like the Lake County Tech Campus, which is widely-regarded as one of the best career and technical education training facilities in the Midwest. The Tech Campus has the largest career technical secondary educational system in Illinois, representing nearly 1,800 high school students from 22-member high schools in both Lake and McHenry counties.

Next door at the College of Lake County (CLC), 40% of majors directly correlated with the most in-demand jobs. CLC currently offers 35 career programs; through business intel, including that provided by Lake County Partners, CLC is able to efficiently tailor its programs and ensure that graduates have the skills that employers need. CLC’s capacity to meet demands is further expanded by the college’s recent investment in its Lakeshore campus, which brought welding and mechatronics to downtown Waukegan and doubled its capacity for the programs. CLC is also gearing up for its new Advanced Technology Center—the facility is expected to open in Gurnee next year. It will provide 182,000 sq. ft. of new hands-on learning space and become the focus of economic development opportunities for welding and numeric control (CNC). In celebration, CLC is embarking on a series of exciting events this month and inviting the public to take part.


As the county’s primary point of contact for businesses, Lake County Partners is skilled at meeting with company leaders, assessing needs, and assembling resources to address issues and pave the way for growth. In connecting with us, your company can tap into Lake County’s robust talent pipeline, explore incentives, leverage communications, and identify opportunities for future growth. As a non-profit organization, we provide these services at no cost. Contact us and see how you can capitalize on Lake County’s outstanding manufacturing success.

Lake County’s Export Exposure is Huge

Did you know that Lake County, Illinois is a large destination for international trade and foreign investment? In 2020, it was the second largest exporting county in Illinois, with an export revenue of a whopping $7 billion. In fact, Lake County’s exports account for 13% of the state’s total exporting in export values.

Lake County’s prominence in Illinois’ exporting is all the more important given the state’s domestic role as an exporting powerhouse. With a total export value of over $53 billion, Illinois is the fifth largest exporting state in the country, and number one in the Midwest. Illinois companies now export to 213 countries, with the most engagement in Canada, Mexico, Germany, Australia, China, Brazil, the UK and Japan.

Importantly, small and medium-sized businesses are driving the success; they make up 90% of the state’s exporters and account for 25% of the state’s total export value. The impact is huge, with direct exporting accounting for nearly 10% of the Gross State Product (GSP). This means that the size of your business doesn’t have to stand in the way of your company’s exporting potential—especially if you are operating in Lake County and can take advantage of the network of support and many exporting resources at your fingertips.


Though your ability to sell goods within the country shouldn’t be underestimated, it’s important to remember that 96% of the world’s consumers are outside of the U.S. and 70% of the world’s purchasing power is outside of the country too.

There is very likely a built-in global demand for your product, and tapping into these new markets will give you the opportunity to grow sales and revenue. Including an international component in your business strategy is almost certain to give your company an edge when it comes to growth and long-term viability.

Exporting also allows your company to stabilize seasonal markets and sales fluctuations. As your domestic business ebbs and flows, you can use exporting as a tool to recover local losses. In diversifying your customer base and portfolio, you can mitigate risks and enhance your company’s stability. Likewise, you can use exporting to leverage the life cycle of a product; products that are considered mature stage in this country might still be growing elsewhere.


Lake County businesses benefit from the services and support offered through us and partners like the Illinois Small Business Development and International Trade Center (ITC) at the College of Lake County. ITC is well-equipped to quickly assess your company at no cost and determine exporting opportunities. Through the ITC, you not only get personalized counseling and training, but you can also receive assistance processing documentation, automating trade leads and linking to key trade representatives. Connect with the ITC directly here, or contact us here to see how we can work together to prepare your business for the global stage.