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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.

Understanding the Big Picture of Supply Chain in Lake County & Beyond

Company leaders are still struggling with many of the supply chain challenges we saw in the pandemic, and their needs and views have continued to evolve. For example, where we saw companies in pre-pandemic times striving for just-in-time inventory management, inventory practices have since changed to a “just-in-case” strategy which requires keeping larger quantities on hand to hedge against supply issues. Additionally, supplier selection standards that emphasized quality and price now look at geography as an important additional criterion, as many companies found that the products from their suppliers on the other side of the world were delayed due to labor shortages or transportation issues.

There are many other examples of how manufacturing, distribution and even service companies have adopted in the last few years across the broad field of supply chain management to address concerns in procurement, inventory management, warehousing, transportation and logistics and customer service. We also see more cross-functional integration with processes like SIOP – Sales, Inventory and Operations Planning – where the sales organization is a more regular player in information sharing and decision-making. Examples such as this show how businesses see the need to continue to tie together the various functions within each organization.

Risk management continues to be a critical success factor, too, where companies try to anticipate possible issues and alternative action plans in case they need to pivot from Plan A (and sometimes Plan B and Plan C) to procure necessary raw materials or provide on-time product delivery to their customers. Collaborative Planning, Forecasting and Replenishment (CPFR) with information-sharing between trading partners provides a better view of expected demand to help with planning. This can sometimes be uncomfortable to implement as companies determine how much to share about their demand patterns, new product development and other important quality and quantity variables but the end result can be a smoother flow of products and information between the two organizations and more collaborative decisions.


The various systems available today, Enterprise Resource Planning, Customer Relationship Management and Warehouse Management to name a few, can help with understanding supply chain attributes such as demand patterns, supplier relationships and customer service. These systems provide huge amounts of data that must be validated, sorted and analyzed to be useful decision-making tools. Many companies have dedicated data analysts to manage and interpret the data, but enhancing broader understanding of the data across the workforce helps everyone understand the business better.

Employees at all levels need a “big picture” view of the situation, recognizing that my “big picture” may be understanding supplier relationship management best practices while your big picture may be following transportation issues and shortages locally and internationally. Identifying these views and increasing employees’ understanding of their frame of reference within the supply chain helps them do their job better and encourages identification of both upstream supplier and downstream customer issues and potential operational improvements. One of the key features of this big picture in supply chain is remembering that the primary goal is to ensure the customer’s needs are being met. This is the final customer for the product or service the organization provides, but it is also the next department or person in the processing of that product or service. We all have many customers to consider.

For instance, if I more clearly understand why, in my procurement role, the annual review of my assigned suppliers directly contributes to receiving’s incoming inspection effectiveness and manufacturing’s ease of processing, I can make better decisions when there are deviations in the supplier evaluation. Even better, if I am able to interface with my company’s other functional areas, such as manufacturing and research and development, along the way to understand their needs more clearly, I can make decisions when the supplier makes changes or offers alternatives that help my direct customers in the organization as well as our end customer.


How do we create this big picture thinking? Awareness and education. This can take many forms – quality circles where cross functional teams discuss operational problems and plan and implement solutions, company training to share and discuss goals as well as important principles and priorities, even lower-level employees sharing what they see with upper-level management. As we better understand the issues and the big-picture framework, we can take these into account in our action plans.

Companies help with the big picture by providing educational opportunities for their employees as well as empowerment, positive culture and compelling job opportunities where employees can make a difference. Individuals can differentiate themselves by providing examples of how they understand the big picture – seeing issues, taking responsibility, suggesting improvements and making them happen.

Per, Lake County has recouped 90 percent of the non-farm jobs since the COVID-19 economic recovery began, outperforming the Illinois state average of 82 percent. Furthermore, the Bureau of Labor Statistics ( shows that unemployment for the Lake County–Kenosha County, IL-WI in April 2022 was 4.4 percent and has been steadily decreasing from January 2022’s 5.1 percent. Also, the 12-month percent change in average wages in the county is up 2.6 percent across all non-farm industries. From these and other statistics, we can see that Lake County is doing well overall. The supply chain challenges continue, but organizations respond to these, developing expertise and holding their own in the competitive business environment.


One of the main goals of the College of Lake County Supply Chain Management (SCM) Program is to help individuals see the supply chain big picture. The Introduction to SCM Certificate consists of five classes in business, supply chain, computer software, management/supervision, and operations management. The Advanced SCM Certificate adds five additional classes in procurement, inventory management, warehousing and distribution, and logistics and transportation plus a capstone course that can be a project at a current employer, an internship, or preparing for and taking a professional SCM certification exam. The Associate of Applied Science in SCM adds ten additional general business and core requirements courses to the ten Advanced SCM Certificate. This program is helpful for someone who is already working in supply chain, someone who is looking to make a career change into supply chain, and those with little exposure who are exploring the burgeoning SCM field. Click here to learn more about the SCM Program at the College of Lake County.

We are indebted to our partners at the College of Lake County, 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

Life Sciences Growth Starts Here

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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