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Lake County Partners’ Recipe For Attracting $1.2 Billion in Investments and Creating Nearly 5,000 New Jobs in Lake County, Illinois

Lake County, a suburban region just north of Chicago, has witnessed an economic boom in recent years. The area attracted over $1.2 billion in direct capital investment in the last five years, generating more than 5,000 new jobs.

It is already home to the second-largest concentration of Fortune 500 companies’ headquarters in the Midwest, and is also known for its immense talent pipeline and thriving life science and advanced manufacturing industries.

Between 2018 and 2021, gross GDP grew 9.6% to $69.7 billion. Forecasts indicate continued growth, with GDP rising by 21.8% and employment growing by more than 10,000 new jobs by 2027.

At the helm of this economic success is the region’s economic development corporation Lake County Partners led by President and CEO Kevin Considine. In a conversation with GMI POST, Considine highlights three key strategies that helped Lake County continue its growth momentum.

Strategy 1: Focus On Skilled Workforce Development

Lake County prioritizes building a strong talent pipeline, said Considine as he explained that their efforts “start early” by aligning education and training initiatives with industry needs.

“We have got a deep set of talent here, especially in advanced manufacturing and life sciences,” Considine said. To foster this advantage, Lake County focuses on early engagement, working with middle school students to spark interest in these fields.

“We ensure students have significant exposure to what the industry is all about to develop their interests, skills, and careers systematically. Building this pipeline is the focus of our workforce development efforts,” he said.

There are nearly 14,500 Lake County high school students participating in career pathway training across the fields of manufacturing, healthcare and information technology. Manufacturing makes up the largest percentage of participants, with more than 8,000 students.

For the existing workforce, Considine emphasizes reskilling and upskilling to be more competitive.

“As the manufacturing heart of the United States, we ensure our workforce is adapting to trends like automation, AI, and sustainable practices. We help them understand the use case of advanced technology while ensuring they are environmentally conscious,” he also said.

Strategy 2: Nurture Investor Relationships

Foreign investment plays a major role in Lake County’s economy, with Japan being a particularly valued partner. With over 25 Japanese-owned businesses operating successfully in the region, Considine said he considers Japan a critical investment partner.

“As the second-largest international investor in our region, we are grateful for our relationship with Japan. We thank all the Japanese businesses who chose to call Lake County their home,” he said.

However, building an attractive business environment goes beyond financial considerations. Lake County strives to create a welcoming community for investors and their families.

“It’s never just business,” said Considine, highlighting the region’s focus on providing amenities that ensure investors “feel at home.”

In addition, Considine underscores the importance of maintaining these relationships through consistent presence.

Commenting on his latest trip to Japan last fall to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the sister city agreement between Osaka and Chicago, Considine said, “We want the Japanese community to know that Lake County is here for them and the biggest way to do so is to keep showing up at all occasions.”

Strategy 3: Develop Competitive Infrastructure

For Considine, a successful business environment demands strong infrastructure. Lake County benefits from its strategic location near O’Hare International Airport, the world’s most connected airport. It also offers convenient interstate connectivity, which ensures that “businesses can move goods and people at all times.”

Reliable and affordable utilities are another essential factor for business success. “Our business sites are built on the foundation of reliable utilities which are available at a fraction of the cost compared to other locations,” Considine said.

Amid a boom in manufacturing, Lake County has employed nearly 100,000 locally, or one for every seven jobs. To meet the demand for talent, local leaders are investing in education.

There is no better example than the College of Lake County’s (CLC) new Advanced Technology Center, which is the crown jewel of manufacturing workforce development. CLC now has over 1,000 students in manufacturing programs, and the number stands to grow in the coming years.

“We have a strong workforce ecosystem that is focused on bringing innovation and automation to Lake County’s manufacturing industry, and making sure that businesses can find the people that they need to thrive, said Considine, whose confidence in Lake County’s future is clear.

“Lake County will unquestionably be the best place for people to grow their businesses and careers in the upcoming years,” he added.

Click here to read the full post as originally published by GMI Post, and click here to connect with Lake County Partners so that we can help you relocate your business and grow in Lake County, Illinois.

Illinois Tops Workforce Development Rankings

For the second consecutive year, Illinois has been named the number one leader for workforce development in the Midwest region. The top ranking highlights the State of Illinois’ commitment to expanding access to innovative workforce programs and making critical investments through legislation and programming to reduce barriers to good-paying jobs in order to create a thriving business ecosystem for jobseekers, employees and employers.

“The hardworking people of Illinois are at the forefront of our state’s economic progress, making us the top state in the Midwest for workforce development for the second consecutive year,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Since day one, my administration has been committed to making Illinois the best place to live. That’s why we’ve made transformative investments in workforce development, education, and our businesses—ensuring that every Illinoisan has an opportunity to thrive.”

“Illinois’ greatest asset is its people, and through a variety of pre-apprenticeship, apprenticeship and workforce development programs throughout the state, DCEO is opening the doors to opportunities to join the state’s top-ranked workforce,” said DCEO Director Kristin Richards. “Under Governor Pritzker’s leadership, the State of Illinois will continue to provide resources and programs to support the number one workforce in the Midwest.”

The Site Selection magazine ranking recognizes “states that performed well in a set of measures that gauge workforce-related aspects of states’ overall employment climate.” It combines information from CNBC, U.S. News, and other organizations.

The Pritzker Administration has consistently invested in workforce training to advance career training opportunities for residents across all industries. From training initiatives and trade programs, Illinois has a sustainable pipeline of qualified workers for every field.

Illinois’ workforce development is rooted in equity, innovation, and growth for the future. The state fosters apprenticeship programs at every level and has over 400 Registered Apprenticeship programs for more than 20,000 active apprentices. Starting with Illinois’ youth, the state is building cohesive programs to ensure every individual that enters the workforce has adequate preparation and the ability to access the resources needed when choosing careers.

Illinois’ youth apprenticeship programs provide a foundation for students aged 16-24 in high school and postsecondary education to choose between multiple pathways in high school, leading to college, full-time employment, or a combination of both.

In 2021, the Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program was launched to increase access to good-paying jobs in the trades for historically underrepresented populations. Since the launch of Illinois Works, more than $40 million has been awarded to 36 diverse organizations across the state, paving the way for over 4,100 participants to secure jobs and greater opportunities in construction and the trades.

WE FUEL BUSINESS GROWTH AND TALENT ATTRACTION IN LAKE COUNTY, ILLINOIS

We work with partners across Lake County to strengthen the local talent pipeline and help businesses tap into the workforce. Connect with us and see how we can help you leverage Lake County’s unique set of assets to attract employees and grow your business.

Therapeutic Scuba Will Go Deeper With Diveheart’s Newest Pool

Imagine escaping your wheelchair and standing upright. Diveheart, a non-profit organization based in Downers Grove, Illinois, has been helping individuals with disabilities including physical and developmental disabilities, vision and hearing impairments, amputations, traumatic brain injuries, autism, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, chronic pain and more, do exactly that since 2001.

Diveheart provides unique adaptive scuba and scuba therapy programs that allow individuals with physical and/or cognitive disabilities to expand their mobility through the experience of being underwater in zero gravity.

Diveheart’s programs have benefitted children, veterans, and countless others and helped to revolutionize water rehabilitation. Now, the charity that introduced and expanded adaptive scuba around the world is building the world’s deepest warm water therapy pool – and with the help of Lake County Partners, the organization has chosen a site in Lake County, Illinois, for the facility because the location will benefit from the area’s immense life science and healthcare talent. Learn more about the proposed deep pool in this new video.

After completing a preliminary facility design, securing the second of two patents on the deep pool design, and finalizing a capital raise feasibility assessment, Diveheard recently revealed the proposed pool’s cutting-edge design and kicked off a major fundraising campaign.

“There are many great types of therapy, but in scuba diving we have the franchise on zero gravity,” said Diveheart Executive Director Tinamarie Hernandez. “It’s thrilling to help get someone out of their wheelchair and standing up underwater for the first time since their injury, or maybe for the first time in their lives,” she added.

Diveheart’s proposed deep pool will provide a way to scale up and help more people enjoy the physical health benefits of underwater zero gravity in a confined and safe warm water environment. The pool will be a worldwide destination for research, rehabilitation, education, and training, and it will provide vocational opportunities as well. The 130 ft. depth of the pool is important because it allows Diveheart to replicate the benefits of deep open water diving without the unknowns of weather, water movement, and other factors that limit opportunities for research and rehabilitation.

Currently, the world’s deepest recreational dive pool, at 200 feet, is located in Dubai, but no existing deep pool anywhere in the world is functional for adaptive scuba and scuba therapy, says Jim Elliott, Diveheart’s founder and president. However, the pool that Diveheart plans to build will meet this important need.

The Diveheart team has focused on the medical and therapeutic benefits of scuba therapy since the organization’s founding over 23 years ago, and its experts have conducted international adaptive scuba symposiums and presented to medical groups around the world. In 2023, Diveheart presented to physicians from the Mayo Clinic on the benefits of scuba therapy, and the team will return for an encore presentation at another Mayo Clinic conference this spring.

Prior to the engagement, Diveheart will kick off its deep pool project with a campaign launch event in Deerfield in mid-February to demonstrate how it would revolutionize adaptive scuba rehabilitation and make it accessible to a wider community. Learn more about the project and how your donation can make a difference here.

WE DRIVE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN LAKE COUNTY, ILLINOIS

We excel at helping leaders expand their business ideas in Lake County, Illinois. Connect with us and see how you can leverage our resources and benefit from our work boosting Lake County’s economy in a way that benefits all residents and businesses.

How We’re Putting the CEDS Into Action

After a robust process involving business, community, education and workforce stakeholders, LCP finalized a new Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) for the county to create jobs, fuel collaboration and strengthen the economy. In 2022, the CEDS received endorsements from Lake County Partners’ Board of Governors, the Lake County Board, the College of Lake County Board of Trustees, and the Lake County Workforce Development Board and was formally submitted to the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

While the CEDS reinforces the importance of business retention and attraction, it goes further to explore structural issues that create the foundation for healthy and inclusive economic growth across the vibrant and diverse communities in Lake County. As a result, LCP has spearheaded several major initiatives to support the goals of the CEDS:

IMMEDIATE FOCUS OF THE COMPREHENSIVE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY

Lack of access to high-quality, affordable childcare can limit workforce and impact school-readiness and long-term education outcomes. Along with a coalition of stakeholders, LCP worked with a consultant to understand Lake County’s childcare landscape. 

The resulting “Start Early” report identified that Lake County only has enough licensed space to accommodate 37% of children aged 0-5 from households where all parents are working. LCP is working with local partners to address this challenge and ensure the health of Lake County’s childcare system.

UNDERSTANDING HOUSING NEEDS

In order for Lake County to attract and retain residents and businesses, it must have a diverse housing stock that provides options for households at different life stages, ages, incomes, and sizes.

In recognition of the important role of housing in community building and economic development, LCP, with support from Lake County Housing & Community Development and Illinois REALTORS®, initiated a housing analysis to better understand local demographics and identify gaps and opportunities. This year, LCP worked with Kretchmer Associates to complete the study, and is in the process of presenting it to stakeholders to ignite conversations on Lake County’s future housing market. You can read the full report from Kretchmer Associates here. 

ADVANCING DIVERSITY, EQUITY & INCLUSION

Knowing that diversity contributes to a healthy economy and equitable access is an important part of community development, LCP created a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force, which suggested changes to the organization’s bylaws to create seats on the Board of Governors for three representatives from small business or community-based organizations.

At this year’s Big Event, LCP’s membership accepted the proposed bylaws, and LCP then worked with the Operations Committee to establish a process to accept nominations—seats are expected to be filled in early 2024.

HELP US FUEL EQUITABLE GROWTH IN LAKE COUNTY, ILLINOIS

Learn more about the CEDS here, and click here to see the results of LCP’s work in 2023. Then, head over here to connect with us and see how you can get involved in our important work to boost Lake County’s economy in a way that benefits all residents and businesses.

2023 Was a Standout Year for Business in Lake County, Illinois

Lake County’s talent and strong mix of industries fueled record growth in 2023, with the year marking one of the best runs of economic development in the county’s history. Lake County Partners celebrated its 25th anniversary with major investments, new partnerships, and the continued implementation of the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy to support businesses, advance economic mobility, and enhance quality of life. The organization also celebrated president & CEO Kevin Considine’s recognition as a Titan 100, marking him as one of Chicagoland’s top 100 CEOs, for his leadership and dedication to economic development.

All told this year, LCP’s work drove $610 million in capital investment, helped create 786 new jobs and resulted in 512 retained jobs.

“The last 5 years have been incredible from a business and job growth perspective, and 2023 is probably our best year yet” says Lake County Partners’ Director of Business Development Director Ron Lanz. “We have had the honor of working with industry leaders to help them expand in Lake County, and we’ve marked the success with a number of groundbreakings and ribbon cuttings. Heading into 2024, LCP’s project pipeline remains robust, particularly in key industries like advanced manufacturing, life science and sustainable energy. Based on my conversations with business leaders, I’m looking forward to continued positive momentum.”

Between all the groundbreakings, ribbon cuttings, award ceremonies, international delegations and everything in between, there were plenty of occasions to celebrate in 2023. Here were just a few of the year’s biggest highlights:

NEW & EXPANDED BUSINESS WINS DEFINED 2023

REALWHEELS

After working with LCP to seal the deal, RealWheels cut the ribbon on a 65,000 sq. ft. facility at 3905 Route 173 in Zion to accommodate growth, new jobs and additional product development. RealWheels has expanded locally several times over the years. Today, the company has over a dozen U.S. patents, employs 60 people and offers a catalog of products proudly made in the U.S.

CARLSON LABS

In recognizing the value of Lake County’s talent, vitamin and supplements manufacturer Carlson Labs acquired 350,000 sq. ft. for its expanded manufacturing operations at 100-120 Schelter Road in Lincolnshire. This highly-automated facility will retain 50 jobs in Lake County and add an additional 140 to the thriving workforce. 

MIF SPEC BUILDING

Midwest Industrial Funds joined local officials and LCP in celebrating a groundbreaking for the Libertyville 45 Corporate Center, a Class A spec redevelopment on a high-visibility 19-acre site, which will feature two buildings sized 169,065 sq. ft. and 165,234 sq. ft. and have the ability to service a multitude of uses including corporate headquarters, distribution, assembly, and manufacturing.

RONCADIN

Italian pizza maker Roncadin committed to Lake County for its new and expanded US headquarters, manufacturing, and distribution operations via the purchase of a 68,279 sq. ft. building at 220 N. Fairway Drive, Vernon Hills. With full operations starting in early 2024, Roncadin will employ 170 workers at their state-of-the-art facility. 

HENRY BROCH FOODS

At the Big Event, LCP honored food manufacturer Henry Broch Foods with the Community Investment Award for the company’s decision to expand its existing Waukegan headquarters by adding 160,000 sq. ft. of new production, robotic warehouse and distribution space, representing a capital investment of nearly $40 million. As part of the project, the company retained 400 existing jobs, and added 150 new jobs.

NEMERA

Medical device manufacturer Nemera, which produces auto-injectors and syringes in Buffalo Grove, is further expanding in Lake County with the purchase of 190,000 sq. ft. at 600 Darling Drive in Vernon Hills. The facility’s 100 new employees will support production of Nemera’s proprietary ophthalmic products, producing the multidose eyedropper Novelia®. 

BECOME ONE OF OUR SUCCESS STORIES

The good news doesn’t end here. Keep an eye on our social media, blog and news to learn more about growing your business in Lake County, Illinois. We have over 25 years of experience driving economic growth and the resources needed to take your company to the next level. Connect with us to tap into our free services here. 

Three Squared Biosciences Signs On to Grow at Rosalind Franklin University

Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science just announced a new tenant in its Innovation and Research Park: 32 (Three Squared) Biosciences, which builds companies that leverage artificial intelligence to better understand the gut microbiome and uses that knowledge to prevent diseases.

32 Biosciences and its subsidiary companies, Gateway Biome and Covira, signed an agreement, effective Nov. 1, for space within the Innovation and Research Park (IRP). Covira had previously been a member company in RFU’s Helix 51 incubator. Learn more about Covira in this Lake County Partners profile.

A rapidly growing body of research shows that the gut microbiome — a previously unrecognized vital organ — plays a central role in neurodegenerative (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s), cardiovascular (hypertension, atherosclerosis), metabolic (obesity, diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)) and gastrointestinal (IBD, colorectal cancer) diseases.

32 Biosciences was formed to harness the full potential of Gateway Biome and Covira, spinouts from the University of Chicago.

“We want to support both companies as they move toward commercialization of their technologies,” said CEO Peter Farmakis, MBA. “This distinctive structure drives operational efficiencies and reduces risk, while maintaining scientific focus at Gateway Biome and Covira. We are thrilled to move into our new home in the IRP.”

Covira received notice in late 2022 of a $299,000 NIH Seed Fund Fast Track Award — with the potential for additional milestone payments — for the study “A novel, non-antibiotic, microbiome-directed agent to prevent post-surgical infection.” The company appointed Brian Yoor, former Chief Financial Officer of Abbott, as Chairman of the Board earlier this year, and continues to build the overall team.

Gateway Biome and Covira are rooted in the pioneering research of founders Eugene Chang, MD FACP, director of the University of Chicago’s Digestive Disease Research Core Center, Joe Pierre, PhD, assistant professor of nutritional sciences, UW-Madison, and John Alverdy, MD, FACP, executive vice-chair of the University of Chicago Department of Surgery, chairman of Covira’s Scientific Advisory Board and board member. The companies are translating their discovery science into novel health screening tools and microbiome-based therapies that modulate the gut microbiome to prevent diseases.

RFU Executive Vice President for Research Ronald Kaplan, PhD, said the IRP’s latest tenant is evidence of the university’s commitment to expanding collaboration between academic research and the life science industry to improve prevention and treatment of disease.

“We have watched the rapid progression of 32 Biosciences companies Covira and now Gateway Biome,” Dr. Kaplan said. “We are pleased that they have ‘graduated’ from the Helix 51 Incubator into the IRP.”

RFU completed the final buildout of 14,000 square feet of IRP wet lab and office space for bioscience-industry occupancy in June — helping to meet the growing demand for wet lab space in the Chicago region and creating an environment where academic and industry scientists can work together to solve complex health challenges.

Grow Your Life Science Business in Lake County, Illinois

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A State-of-the-Art 334,229 Sq. Ft. Business Park Begins to Take Shape in Libertyville

Midwest Industrial Funds recently hosted a groundbreaking event with their project team and local government officials to launch their latest high-profile, Class A spec redevelopment – Libertyville 45 Corporate Center which is located at 1850 US 45, Libertyville, IL adjacent to the Libertyville/Canlan Sports Complex. Situated on a high-visibility 19-acre site, the two-building redevelopment consists of 169,065 SF and 165,234 SF buildings which are being constructed on a speculative basis and are suitable for a multitude of uses including corporate headquarters, distribution, assembly, and manufacturing. The high-image pre-cast concrete and glass facilities feature 32’ clear ceiling height, up to 24 dock positions per building, above-standard 372 car parking and up to 4,000 amps of power per building. The buildings are divisible and will be shell complete in Summer 2024. The site was previously a driving range and miniature golf facility owned and operated by the Village of Libertyville.

MIF Construction, LLC is the design-build general contractor for the project with Pinnacle Engineering and Partners in Design providing engineering and design services. The Cushman & Wakefield team of Keith Puritz, Brett Kroner, Eric Fischer, and Marc Samuels are marketing the buildings for lease or sale on behalf of Midwest Industrial Funds.

Justin Fierz, Principal with Midwest Industrial Funds stated, “We are very excited to launch this unique project given the historically low submarket vacancy, supply constraints and continued strong demand for buildings in this size range in Lake County. Our property offers incredible exposure, visibility, and a very high image feel. It is situated in the heart of Libertyville’s industrial market which is home to some very high-profile and large companies. This project has been a true public/private partnership with the village over the last few years to work through many complex development issues all to bring us to today where we have officially broken ground. It is a very challenging time to develop and finance projects like this, and we couldn’t be more proud of our whole team to get it done. We feel great about the timing of this project in the marketplace and our strong pre-leasing activity.”

Libertyville Mayor Donna Johnson spoke at the groundbreaking event as well and stated, “I am thrilled to stand here today with MIF and our Village officials to celebrate Libertyville 45 Corporate Center. Given the project quality, it’s adjacency to recognized industrial, biopharma, finance and corporate operations, and the skilled labor force in proximity, this development is lined up to find success in occupancy. We look forward to this expansion of our business base.”

Steve Madden, CEO of Libertyville Bank & Trust Company, N.A., and Chair of the Lake County Partners Board of Governors, echoed this enthusiasm. “Libertyville sits at the crossroads of critical transportation infrastructure, and this site is at the center of our world-class talent pool. The project is an excellent example of the public-private collaboration for which Lake County is known, and we are eager to help new employers tap into all that our community offers.”

Tap into the Lake County Market to Grow Your Business

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Housing is a Necessary Asset for Economic Growth and Mobility

In order for Lake County to attract and retain residents and businesses, it must have a diverse housing stock that provides options for households at different life stages, ages, incomes, and sizes. It needs a greater diversity beyond owner-occupied single-family detached homes. The lack of housing will limit the county’s ability to attract and retain workers, particularly with an aging population, and projected decline in the working age population.

In recognition of the important role of housing in community building and economic development, Lake County Partners, with support from Lake County Housing & Community Development and Illinois REALTORS®, is pleased to announce the completion of a Housing Analysis report. LCP worked with Kretchmer Associates to conduct a study looking at the demographics of the county (population, household profiles, income, etc.) and our housing stock (number, type, location, etc.) to identify gaps. The analysis is a look at the quantitative and qualitative data on the existing housing landscape and the barriers that exist to meeting our housing needs. The report includes several significant findings.

Between 2018 and 2022, new residential development averaged only 1,200 units per year, well below the near and long-term household projections by ESRI and CMAP. This will result in a significant shortage over time.

Despite modest overall projected growth in the county over the next five years, the projected increase in the number of senior households with incomes $50,000 or over and households under age 65 with incomes $100,000 or over will generate demands for 17,700 market-rate owner and renter units. Given the existing shortage of affordable rental units in the county, there is demand for 7,900 units for seniors and families, especially in the south sub-regions which have limited options.

Housing prices increased at a faster pace than income over the past four years. The share of homes selling for less than $400,000 decreased substantially, while the share that sold for the more than $500,000 almost doubled. Rent increases also exceeded the rate of income growth and inflation.

Despite being an affluent county with a 2022 median household income of $103,000, almost one quarter of all households earns less than $50,000, including in the more affluent south sub-regions.

Countywide, 44,000 owners and 29,000 renters are living in unaffordable housing. While low-income households are most cost-burdened, a sizable number with incomes of $75,000-100,000 are paying over 30% of their income for housing.

Restrictive zoning makes it difficult to build in many parts of the county. Much of the county was developed when large lot single-family housing was the preferred housing type. Education on the need for and benefits of a wider housing mix is needed to address common NIMBY concerns about new development.

Given high land costs in much of the county and increasing construction costs, it is difficult to build new affordable housing without government programs and incentives to developers, or direct subsidies to households. Government funding is limited and it is highly competitive to get. Corporate, foundation, and other support is also needed to serve those with low and moderate incomes, as well as those in the “Missing Middle” range who earn $75,000-125,000.

Redevelopment of former office and retail properties offers an opportunity for infill residential and mixed-use development proximate to jobs and shopping.

Read the full report here, and connect with us here to learn more about our efforts as they relate to the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy.

Taking A Fresh Look at Chicagoland’s Value Proposition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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