Category: Uncategorized

New Neal Math & Science Academy Fuels Workforce of the Future

AbbVie and the North Chicago Community Unit School District 187 celebrated the opening of the new Neal Math and Science Academy, the district’s only middle school, built with a $40 million donation from AbbVie. Constructed with a focus on STEM learning, it was designed in collaboration with the school district, AbbVie, students and the community. Students and teachers began classes at the school this week, and the community has already been inspired to dream bigger.

“As a North Chicago-headquartered company, we have been a longstanding partner with District 187 to improve student success and support children, families and the community,” said Laura Schumacher, vice chairman, external affairs and chief legal officer, AbbVie. “At AbbVie, giving back to our local communities is part of who we are, and we are proud to support the creation of this new school, which will help the young people in North Chicago to grow, learn and reach their full potential.”

This donation is one example of AbbVie’s longstanding commitment to the North Chicago community. AbbVie employees have committed more than 100,000 volunteer hours since 2013 to renovate spaces and provide mentoring, STEM education and other support in North Chicago. Additionally, the AbbVie Foundation has made significant investments in nonprofit partners, including Teach for America, North Chicago Community Partners and Innovations for Learning, which support students in North Chicago through a variety of programs.

“Thanks to AbbVie for their incredible donation and close collaboration throughout the construction process, our students have a transformative opportunity inside and outside of the classroom,” said John Price, district superintendent. “The new Neal Math and Science Academy offers expanded STEM learning and supports our students’ own unique goals. This is more than just a new school – it’s an economic catalyst for the North Chicago community.”

Neal Math and Science Academy can now accommodate more than 600 students and has many new features that will aid in student learning, including six new science labs, a media center and innovation lab, music room and fitness center. Students will now be able to utilize these new features and learn in large open spaces designed to encourage better collaboration. It also features a custom-built sensory room that serves as a therapeutic space to support students’ well-being.

AbbVie and the school district selected IFF a mission-driven lender, real estate consultant and developer, to facilitate the project. Headquartered in Chicago, IFF works at the intersection of facilities and finance to help nonprofits create safe, inspiring spaces that enable them to achieve their missions and support their communities. A shared objective for AbbVie, the school district and IFF was to leverage the construction of the school as an economic benefit for North Chicago and prioritize minority, women and veteran tradesman and local subcontractors. JGMA architects in Chicago designed the new school and Gilbane Building Company, Bowa Construction and Blackwood Group were hired for construction.


Lake County Partners works closely with local partners, including corporate leaders like AbbVie, to make talent access a competitive advantage in Lake County. Investments in cutting-edge spaces, education, career pathways and connections ensure that businesses will find the workforce that they need to grow. Learn more about Lake County’s workforce and the stakeholders that work together to support it here. Connect with us here to see how the Lake County Workforce Ecosystem can help your company find capable employees and upskill existing ones.

Manufacturing Month Caps off Tremendous Year of Growth

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

When the Community Invests in Talent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Summer Tourism is Hot in Lake County

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

NEW IMA Study Highlights Lake County’s Manufacturing Strength

The Illinois Manufacturers’ Association (IMA) continued its statewide “Manufacturing Matters” tour with a stop at the College of Lake County’s Advanced Technology Center in Gurnee to detail the results of a new economic impact study measuring the industry’s significant contributions to the state and local economy.

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

“Manufacturing is a key pillar of our state economy, and the industry’s success is vital to our state’s success. Illinois manufacturers feed the world, make life-saving products, power our homes and businesses, build our infrastructure, transport people and products around the globe and provide for our nation’s defense,” said Mark Denzler, President and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association. “Manufacturers are the innovators and entrepreneurs, the builders and producers, and the dreamers and leaders who are solving our challenges and creating our future. It’s imperative our elected officials enact polices to allow for the industry’s continued success, foster capital investment and grow new jobs for generations to come.”

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

“Advanced manufacturing has a tremendous impact on our local economy—one in every seven jobs is in the industry. Much of the success is owed to our workforce,” said Kevin Considine, President & CEO of Lake County Partners. “Our partners have made strategic investments in education at the College of Lake County, the Lake County Tech Campus and area high schools to nurture talent and arm students with in-demand skills. As a result, we have over 1,000 students in manufacturing programs at the college and high school levels. That fuels business growth.”

The study’s findings were detailed during an event at the College of Lake County’s new Advanced Technology Center (ATC) that is planning to open to the public this September. The 142,000 sq. ft. facility, a former Lowe’s home improvement store, has undergone an extensive renovation to transform into a state-of-the-art center for manufacturing education. The ATC will strengthen Lake County’s workforce by providing industry-relevant career pathways that focus on industrial technology, fabrication, and welding during phase one of the ATC’s launch.

“Studies like this underscore the importance of manufacturing in Lake County, and CLC is a dedicated partner in meeting workforce needs. We made the important decision to invest in the ATC to align our programming with Lake County’s most in-demand jobs,” said Lori Suddick, President of CLC. “This project represents enormous potential to grow a diverse skilled talent pipeline that is responsive to such a critical Lake County industry. The ATC will give our students new opportunities to build rewarding careers in Lake County, while also supporting our thriving manufacturing businesses.”

As part of the study, economists also examined the manufacturing industry’s evolution in the face of rapid technological development, with trends suggesting a shift toward a higher-skilled workforce. This underscores the importance of working closely with education institutions, policy makers and manufacturers to provide specialized training, and the need to further expand workforce training across the state to better prepare Illinois residents to enter high-demand fields.

The IMA is leading these efforts, including successfully championing the creating of two new world-class manufacturing academies scheduled to open this fall, passing legislation requiring all high schools to offer career and technical education by 2025, establishing an apprenticeship tax credit for manufacturers that train employees, and partnering with the Pritzker Administration to launch a new multi-million dollar ad campaign highlighting manufacturing jobs that will launch later this year.

The new economic impact study is among the most comprehensive looks at the true impact of manufacturing in Illinois, which has historically been underreported. The standard metrics fail to capture the multiplying economic effects of the industry, including hiring and purchases from vendors to support manufacturing operations. The study found the Illinois manufacturing industry has an employment multiplier of 2.7, meaning that for every 10 jobs directly created by manufacturers, another 17 jobs are created elsewhere in Illinois. This multiplier effect is significantly higher than other industries in Illinois, underlying the importance of adopting policies to support growth of the manufacturing industry.

“An important takeaway from this study is the sheer size of manufacturing’s economic presence in Illinois. Every job created by a manufacturer spurs additional hiring and spending across multiple industries in the state. These secondary economic effects, known as the multiplier effect, represent additional contributions to the economy and should not be overlooked,” said Joseph C. Von Nessen, Research Economist at the Darla Moore School of Business, University of South Carolina. “Because this multiplier effect is significantly higher than other industries in Illinois, future expansions of manufacturing have the potential to generate relatively higher secondary employment impacts compared to similar expansions in other sectors. The ongoing recovery from the pandemic as well as the long-term economic health of Illinois will depend on the continued success of manufacturing.”


Lake County Partners has a solid track record of helping advanced manufacturers grow in Lake County, Illinois. Connect with us here to see how we can help your business tap into our incredible talent and resources to thrive.

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.

Medline Celebrates 1.4 Million Sq. Ft. Distribution Facility in Grayslake

Medline celebrated the opening of its 1.4 million-square-foot LEED-certified distribution center in Grayslake, Illinois – estimated to be the largest medical-grade distribution center in the country. To commemorate the opening, Lake County Treasurer Holly Kim, Grayslake Mayor Rhett Taylor, local dignitaries and representatives from Medline, Lake County Partners, major hospitals, nursing homes and healthcare providers in the region gathered on-site for the celebratory ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“It’s a real honor to celebrate the ribbon cutting of our newest facility with our customers, local officials and partner organizations,” said Brian Bevers, Senior Vice President of operations at Medline. “Medline has been operating in Lake County for nearly 50 years, and we look forward to growing our presence in the community with this latest addition in Grayslake. Thank you to all who have supported us and for joining us on this special day.”

The $125 million cutting-edge facility handles the distribution of thousands of individual products and devices shipped to healthcare providers across the continuum of care, such as hospitals, nursing homes, ambulatory surgery centers, hospices and physicians’ offices. The Grayslake facility has created 350 new jobs, for a total of nearly 700 when at full capacity, and is expected to handle more than $1 billion in annual orders.

“I think it’s significant that Medline is growing their presence in Lake County by choice,” said Lake County Treasurer Holly Kim. “Like any small mom and pop that becomes successful, this is a company that began here, grew over decades, and yet continues to give back in the community. It strikes me as unique and important that the hundreds of good jobs at Medline are not only needed during a pandemic but they will be here when times are good or challenging.”

Grayslake Mayor Rhett Taylor echoed this sentiment. “This investment highlights the tremendous economic growth that we’ve seen in recent years, in the village and in the broader Lake County community. The Alter Group’s Cornerstone development is one of the largest master-planned projects in the United States, and it was designed to give businesses the opportunity to grow. With Medline as an anchor at this new facility, our vision for the property is becoming an exciting reality.”

The Grayslake distribution center is a part of Medline’s $2 billion Healthcare Resilience Initiative, a national capital expenditure campaign that included new distribution centers, manufacturing capabilities and information technology (IT) upgrades to further their commitment to delivering superior customer service. Medline supports small businesses and plans to spend approximately $2.5 million annually with local vendors for maintenance, upkeep and operations support of the Grayslake distribution center. Medline currently manages six facilities throughout Lake County that house offices, manufacturing and distribution, and employ more than 3,000 team members.

“Lake County has celebrated extraordinary growth in advanced manufacturing and life sciences, and Medline is really at the intersection of these key industries,” noted Lake County Partners president and CEO Kevin Considine. “We strategically invest in local talent and infrastructure to make sure that business leaders can rely on our workforce, location and competitive costs. Medline’s success in our community is a testament to favorable business climate.”

Medline serves the nation’s top healthcare systems, operating over 50 distribution centers and 20-plus manufacturing facilities across North America. Medline distributes 300,000 unique medical products, including 65,000+ manufactured by Medline.


This new Medline facility is an anchor at the Alter Group’s Cornerstone development in Grayslake – one of the largest master-planned projects in the country. Upon completion, the development will offer 3 million sq. ft. of light industrial, research and development (R&D), and logistics space and leverage Lake County’s incredible talent, location, infrastructure and competitive costs.

Our 20+ years of experience driving economic development in Lake County, Illinois and extensive network of Chicagoland’s most high-profile business leaders means we have the resources you need to grow. As a non-profit organization, Lake County Partners’ services are free and convenient. Connect with us to learn more about state-of-the-art opportunities like Cornerstone.

The Bold Future of Education in Lake County

Lake County Partners is fortunate to work with incredibly skilled educational leaders who are training the next generation of talent in Lake County. In pursuit of the best way to arm young students with the in-demand skills that they need to flourish in the workplace, innovators like Gina Schuyler at Grayslake D127 are shaking up the traditional mold and charting a new path forward in education. Illinois schools and the businesses they serve will benefit immensely.

For years in Lake County, we have talked collectively about the need for a means to recognize students and employers who both engage with early career exploration and readiness. The Illinois School Board of Education (ISBE) has provided those means to us, and local Lake County Schools are already taking advantage of the opportunity.

In the 2019/2020 school year, Grayslake D127 became a pilot for the Illinois State Career Pathway Endorsement Process. They were one of 12 schools in the state at the time that decided to dive into this project. A grant through Ed System NIU allowed the district to help begin this groundbreaking project. It consists of 4 main parts to highlight to businesses that students are invested in a career pathway. The endorsement is a seal on a student’s transcript that clearly demonstrates the student has dedicated his or her high school education to fully learning about a career pathway and participating in activities and classes that distinguish them from other peers entering the field.

When a student comes out with this seal in “manufacturing,” “education,” “health science,” or ”information technology,” how are businesses recognizing these students? Do they receive preferred hiring or increased wages? How are post-secondary institutions recognizing this? Through scholarships or acceptance into programs or training? These discussions are vital to advancing the initiative as well as protecting the best interests of students and businesses alike. These days, talent is paramount, and workforce skills factor heavily into business location decisions. There is truly no better time for the educational system and community to work together and embark on a new frontier that will ultimately benefit employers, employees and the local economy.


The first tier is for students to identify a career area of interest. It is very important to note that this does not mean that students are locked into a career decision during their freshman year of high school. Instead, during a student’s freshman year, we begin engaging in a set of awareness activities to help the students narrow down their likes and dislikes to be able to make better-informed post-secondary education decisions. Students don’t know what they are not exposed to and frankly, some students are not exposed to enough career options. All too often, the only option that is shared with them after high school is a 4-year college or university.

This is where someone like Gina Schuyler comes into play – she is the CTE Department Chair for Careers & Community Partnerships at Grayslake D127. Gina connects the community and world of work with the students and the schools. She introduced the district to YouScience; YouScience is a set of 11 brain-based games the students play to help identify both their interest and aptitude in many different career options. This tool begins conversations on different careers that might interest a student, and establishes a mentorship framework that can support their interests.

For example, if a student expresses an interest in health science, the software offers hundreds of health science options – it does not limit the exploration to traditional, well-known positions like doctors and nurses. Additionally, a counselor can suggest classes that align with that pathway, such as anatomy, certified nursing assistant, biomedical, or medical assisting for consideration. There are also clubs and activities for students to join that align with their interests, such as future medical professionals, NTHS and SKILLS USA.

These classes and clubs give a student perspective, and help them put the experiences into two buckets of “I like it and I want to learn more” or “I didn’t like it and I am ready to explore another discipline,” and then we begin a conversation about what they did not like. We will be adding a career readiness product called SchooLinks to this to allow our counselors, CTE teachers and internship coordinators to all collaborate with students together.

The second tier in the career pathway endorsement process gives students the opportunity to take early college credit classes in their identified area of interest – minimally 6 credits (2 classes). Early college credit can be offered in dual credit, articulated credit or AP credit. This highlights the student’s commitment and interest in this career area. For example, if students are interested in becoming a teacher, Grayslake D127 offers about 4 different classes with early college credit (Child Development, Teaching Practicum, Parenting & Relationship and Early Education & Teaching (offered through the Lake County Tech Campus). In any pathway that is approved by the state, Gina aligns to ensure that students who gain the endorsement have at least two classes in their field that also earn them early college credit. This early college credit is a cost savings to the student or families as this class not does not need to be taken after high school. Many of these classes offer hands on lab experiences that tie into the third.

The third tier is for students to gain professional learning from the community and take learning beyond the traditional walls of the school or classroom. This includes awareness, preparation, and exploration activities that provide opportunities for students to interact with adults in the workplace. Our goal is to provide students the opportunity to gain 60 hours (over 4 years) of supervised career development opportunities. Examples include internships, job shadowing, practicums, employment and more.

In this third tier, we also want to provide students with career exploration activities as well as team challenges. Examples of career exploration activities could be, but are not limited to, site visits to employers, virtual experiences, career expos, and mock interviews. Team challenges can take place within a lab-based classroom such as a “skills check” through an employer or through involvement in Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs) such as Skills USA, FBLA, FCCLA or NTHS. Schools such as Grayslake D127 continually seek employer participation and partnerships through their Careers & Community Partnership Chair. The SchooLinks product will also serve as our business partnership hub to push out invites to our community as well as keep track of students experiences.

The final tier is ensuring students are both reading and math ready for post-secondary options. Should a student choose to attend college, this would mean the student is entering into the collegiate system taking credit-bearing classes (and not remedial to address any deficiencies). If a student is entering the trades or other type of post-secondary education, there are means such as SAT score, class rank, and entrance exams that provide a window of readiness needed for that profession.

Grayslake D127 graduated its first “endorsed” students this year. Five students from Grayslake Central and Grayslake North High School graduated with the “Health Science Endorsement.” Many of these students also came out of high school having already passing their CNA exams. Through a private donor to the school, each student was awarded $1000 to use toward their career pursuit – but that is just the start.


As other schools in Lake County also begin to embrace this cutting-edge endorsement process for their students, Grayslake is pioneering a discussion with partners in the Lake County Workforce Ecosystem – including Lake County Partners, Lake County Workforce Development and Regional Superintendent Dr. Michael Karner – to garner support for the initiative, establish best practices, and chart a path forward that increases participation and support. This is especially pertinent as a new House Bill proposes offering the career endorsement process in all Illinois schools in the coming years.

To fuel this program and ensure its success, we need buy-in from the business community. This starts with educating and engaging local business leaders so that they can more quickly tap into Lake County’s extraordinary talent pipeline.


If your business is interested in getting involved and working with highly-skilled students in the endorsement pathway, contact us and we will be happy to connect you with Grayslake D127. Learn more about the innovative Lake County Workforce Ecosystem that is fueling local talent and connecting employers with job candidates here.

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.

Attracting & Fostering Talent is the Key to Lake County’s Continued Biosciences Growth

With 30,000+ employees, a healthy mix of Fortune 500s, mid-level companies and startups, and an $85 billion dollar output worldwide, Lake County’s life science ecosystem is among the biggest in the world. With great success comes great responsibility, and Lake County Partners is not one to rest on its laurels. We have been proud to team up with industry leaders like iBIO to prioritize innovation and cultivate talent. In this guest blog post, iBIO president and CEO John Conrad shares how the organization is fostering long-term bioscience success in Lake County and Illinois.

This week, nearly 100 rising third to eighth grade girls are convening at Cristo Rey St. Martin College Preparatory High School in Waukegan, Lake County’s county seat, to explore a wide variety of areas related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The weeklong gathering marks the launch of the Illinois Biotechnology Innovation Organization’s (iBIO) 2022 STEMgirls Summer Camp, which is made possible by the support of lead sponsor Lake County-based Abbott Laboratories.

More than a fun, hands-on educational opportunity for young students, the initiative underscores a critical pathway to ensuring the continued growth of life sciences in Illinois: attracting and fostering current and future talent.

To be sure, the Illinois biosciences industry is a national leader – with Lake County alone claiming home to global corporations such as AbbVie, Abbott, Baxter, Horizon Therapeutics and others. A large contributor to the Illinois economy, the state’s industry has an overall economic output of $98 billion and has experienced tremendous growth the past few years. iBIO’s most recent research report shows that Illinois ranked in the top five states nationwide with $2.7 billion in venture-capital investment between 2016 and 2019.


The Illinois Biotechnology Innovation Organization (iBIO) is a life sciences industry association that represents the nearly 88,000 life sciences employees at member companies, universities, service providers and venture firms. iBIO promotes the industry’s value to the public and policymakers; connects innovators to investment and talent; and stimulates collaboration and fosters the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs to transform patient lives through groundbreaking research.

Chief among iBIO’s priorities is not only luring but retaining top talent as well as cultivating the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs. Following are three key priorities to support the continued growth of the area’s life sciences industry:

  1. Retaining talent: Ensuring the biosciences community has access to early-stage capital

Illinois is home to 11 research universities. But to keep the innovative startups born from those universities in the state we need to ensure they have access to early-stage capital.

To that end, it is critical that the Illinois Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) matching program is adequately funded in Illinois’ budget, which provides state matching funds for critical proof-of-concept federal SBIR grants.

Also, we need to make sure local companies are maximizing current programs, like prequalifying for the Illinois Angel Investment Tax Credit Program. Companies that leveraged the program attracted more than $40 million in angel funding, according to a 2020 report from The Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity.

Finally, we must explore how we can adapt other existing programs, like the R&D Tax Credit, which needs to be permanent and adapted to provide support for our startup companies.

2. Fostering the next generation of innovators

Illinois-based life sciences companies spent more than $14 billion in R&D in 2018 according to publicly available reports. Nearly one-million square feet of lab space currently is either delivered or under construction. With this growth, we need to champion the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs to fill that space.

Introducing youth to the STEM fields is paramount. What begins as a spark of interest may grow into a bioscience career. One major hurdle that education experts run up against is that efforts to expand female interest in STEM are not working as well as intended.

To address this challenge, iBIO proudly partners with schools and community organizations through several initiatives, including a STEM kit program and STEMGirls camp. iBIO has sent more than 6,000 kits to 330 Chicago metro school district students in grades three through eight as part of the STEM Kit program. The STEMGirls camp provides inclusive opportunities for young minds to engage in hands-on activities, gain exposure to influential female leaders in STEM careers, and see real-world examples of how STEM is used. To date, more than 1,000 girls have participated in the camp, which is focused on low-income and under-represented communities. Ensuring that young people see others who come from similar backgrounds exceed is vital to igniting their interest because they will be inspired by the drive and success they witness in these professionals.

3. Delivering growth through diversity

With more than 88,000 direct jobs and the highest-paying industry in Illinois, the life sciences industry needs a strong supply of qualified, trained workers. To achieve this, iBIO works with members to raise Illinois’ ability to attract and retain top health and life sciences talent across the highly competitive national markets.


iBIO delivers industry-led STEM programs for teachers and students, thereby inspiring the next generation of innovators and helping restore America’s leadership in technology education. Click here to learn more about iBIO and its programs.

We are indebted to our partners at iBIO, and honored to work with them and the other stakeholders in the Lake County Workforce Ecosystem to fortify Lake County’s strong talent pipeline. Connect with us directly here for our help tapping into this resource and others designed to help your business grow in Lake County.