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The Changing Face of Healthcare in Lake County

Representation matters, especially in healthcare. The strongest healthcare systems thrive on ethnographic diversity among practitioners. They should reflect the communities they serve.

“Diversity in healthcare is not just a matter of fairness; it’s about improving outcomes for everyone,” notes Anne King, Director, Community Affairs at Northwestern Memorial HealthCare. “When patients see healthcare professionals who look like them and understand their cultural backgrounds, it fosters trust and leads to better health outcomes.”

Systemic inequities can underlie poor health outcomes, which is why widespread access to affordable, high-quality healthcare across Lake County is so important. Equally important is making sure that these healthcare systems can recruit from a robust and diverse talent pipeline.

In the field of nursing, U.S. Census data shows that Black and Latinx nurses, who represent 30% of the population, only account for 17% of the healthcare workforce nationwide. In Lake County, this challenge presents opportunities to engage new recruits and serve the community more effectively.

As a partner in the regional workforce ecosystem, the College of Lake County (CLC) seized the opportunity to proudly became an inaugural member of the Illinois Pipeline for the Advancement of Healthcare Workforce (PATH) initiative. This state-wide grant program aims to create, support, and expand opportunities for individuals, particularly those in historically overlooked areas, to obtain credentials and degrees, enabling them to enter or advance their careers in the healthcare industry.

Listening to feedback from workforce providers and advisory boards, CLC identified short and long-term credentials to cultivate desirable qualifications for future healthcare employees. The PATH initiative strategically aims to increase student diversity in healthcare programs and promote inclusion.

“Through initiatives like PATH, we’re not only addressing the pressing need for a more diverse healthcare workforce but also taking tangible steps toward creating a more equitable healthcare landscape in Lake County,” said CLC Vice President for Educational Affairs Dr. Kristen Jones.

With a commitment from the state of Illinois to enhance healthcare diversity and improve outcomes for underserved communities, the PATH grant embarked on an ambitious journey. In the first year alone, CLC surpassed its goals by recruiting more than 1,000 students across 10 targeted healthcare programs – students that will go on to support Lake County’s vibrant healthcare industry and enjoy rewarding careers.

Since the inception of PATH in 2023, nearly 100 new nurses, 600 new nurse assistants, and over 200 new emergency medical technicians (EMTs) have entered the workforce. A majority of students in eligible healthcare programs identify as an ethnicity other than white.

“The PATH initiative is not just about increasing enrollment numbers; it’s about creating pathways for diverse students to enter and excel in the healthcare field. It’s about breaking barriers and providing opportunities for those who have been underrepresented,” said CLC Dean of Biological and Health Sciences Jeet Saini.

Through initiatives like PATH, CLC is not only addressing the pressing need for a more diverse healthcare workforce but also taking tangible steps to support Lake County’s nationally recognized healthcare systems, both now, and in the future. Learn more about PATH here, and connect with us here to see how we can help your company tap into Lake County talent.

10 Hours Is All It Takes To Transform Your Business

In a world where the boundaries between education and industry are often rigid, Lake County stands out for its strong network of collaborative partners who band together to empower youth with real-world skills inside and out of the classroom. The nonprofit organization Give Me 10 is a profound example of this incredible fusion of industry and workforce development. Founded by a visionary educator, Sue Dickson at Closs Tire & Auto, this initiative has blossomed over the past seven years, reshaping the landscape of career and technical education.

It all began with a simple yet powerful idea: to cultivate collaboration between academia and business. Sue grew up in the automotive business, watching her father grow his small shop in Waukegan. When he passed the company on to her, she tackled the issue of finding trained technicians head-on. She quickly met with the Lake County Tech Campus, offering help to establish a new internship program.

What has developed since then is nothing short of remarkable. The Give Me 10 program provides a work-based learning model that any industry can use to bridge the skills gap. It combines classroom instruction with on-the-job opportunities that provide a seamless introduction to the career path chosen by the student. It simplifies the relationship between business and vocational education, at no cost. Instead, the program relies on the donation of time, which is used to help integrate students into businesses and grow new employees.

“Give Me 10 gives students hands-on experience to prepare them for the workforce,” notes Ms. Dickson. “We started with six kids interning at local shops, and over the years we have fine-tuned the program and it is now a talent pipeline for 35 automotive repair shops, and businesses in other industries too. This growth was made possible through strategic partnerships, including collaboration with Lake County Workforce Development, which secured federal grant money to fund work-based learning initiatives.”

Over $600,000 in WIOA federal grant money directly supports students in their work-based learning endeavors, paving the way for a seamless transition from education to employment.

“One of the key principles of Give Me 10 is its commitment to empowering students,” notes Jennifer Serino, the Executive Director at Lake County Workforce Development. “Unlike traditional models where grants often benefit the institutions, here the focus is on the students themselves.”

“The program’s impact extends beyond individual success stories,” observes Derrick Burress, the Principal at Lake County Tech Campus. “By embracing all career pathways at the tech campus, Give Me 10 has become a cornerstone of career and technical education. From automotive and collision repair to culinary arts and construction management, students are exposed to a diverse array of opportunities, empowering them to pursue their passions and unlock their full potential.”

Central to Give Me 10’s philosophy is the idea of reciprocity. Through the “10-hour donation” program, local businesses give back to the community by providing mentorship and guidance to students. This symbiotic relationship not only enriches the educational experience but also strengthens ties within the community.

The program’s commitment to giving back is exemplified through initiatives like the Mother’s Trust and Tool Scholarship Fund. By raffling off the refurbished car and donating the proceeds, Give Me 10 not only supports charitable causes but also reinvests in the future of education.

One of the highlights of Give Me 10 is the Tech Campus Car project. Now in its third year, this initiative not only serves as a practical learning experience but also fosters community engagement. Students take a donated car through the entire repair process, from start to finish, honing their skills, getting invested in the project, and sparking conversations about their capabilities and long-term career goals.

Building strong relationships with industry partners is crucial to the success of Give Me 10. Through presentations and roadshows, the program simplifies the value proposition for educational partners, emphasizing the importance of growing one’s own employees from the ground up. This collaborative approach fosters a sense of ownership and investment in the students’ success.

As Give Me 10 continues to evolve, it remains committed to its core mission of transforming education and empowering communities. With private donations supporting students’ financial needs and on-the-job training opportunities paving the way for meaningful careers, the program is poised to shape the future of career and technical education for years to come.

In a world where learning is often confined to the walls of a classroom, Give Me 10 provides a breath of fresh air, and a future for students who might have otherwise not found the direction they needed to forge rewarding careers and hone their ambitions. Learn more about Give Me 10 here, and connect with us here to see how we can help you leverage Lake County’s incredible workforce.

First Half of 2024 Marked With Major Investments & Economic Growth

Lake County Partners is fortunate to have the unique position of working with local leaders to enhance Lake County’s economy, support business and make sure the community is positioned for equitable prosperity. The first six months of 2024 have been a particularly successful continuation of one of the best runs of economic development in county history, as measured by job growth and investment.

In the past 5 years, LCP has fueled 4,400 new jobs, retained nearly 4,800 jobs and driven $1.2 BILLION dollars in direct investment in the community. With plenty of projects in the pipeline, particularly in key industries like life science and manufacturing, sustainability and energy, we are expecting an equally busy back half of the year.

Along with the success has come the recognition. Site Selection Magazine recently named Chicagoland the top metro in the U.S. for corporate relocation and site selection for the 11th consecutive year. Illinois is #2 in the nation for corporate projects. Lake County has certainly played a role in this honor.

CNBC, too, has ranked Illinois among the top in the nation for business, U.S. News and World Report has recognized Lake County schools among the best in the nation, with a headline that could have been plucked from our promotional material – “Best High Schools in the U.S.: Lake County Schools Lead the Way in Illinois.”

Education is what truly sets Lake County apart. Local schools are highly skilled at training the next generation of talent, and preparing students for success. For some, that might mean helping them go on to 2 or 4-year college. For others, it means creating bold new career pathways. In fact, Lake County has emerged as a leader in Career and Technical Education, in Illinois and the nation.

Lake County schools are stronger because they have support from corporate citizens like AbbVie—the company helped fund the new Neal Math and Science Academy in North Chicago, which opened one year ago. This is just one of many examples of the public-private partnerships that fortify Lake County’s workforce pipeline and bolster key industries like life science.

Chicagoland continues to rank top in the Midwest and among the top 10 biopharma clusters in the U.S. In fact, the industry’s success in the region spurred the Chan Zuckerberg Foundation to commit $250 million to boosting life science technology in Illinois. At the same time, we’ve seen huge grants awarded to researchers at Rosalind Franklin University to advance cutting-edge medicine.

We can’t applaud our educational systems without acknowledging the huge role that higher education plays in our economy. The homegrown talent coming out of Rosalind Franklin University, the College of Lake County and Lake Forest College is a game-changer for local employers, including our major health systems, which have been ranked among the top in the state by U.S. News and World Report.

Lake County has so much to leverage when it comes to business attraction, and Lake County Partners is reaching new audiences thanks to the Greater Chicagoland Economic Partnership—formed through an alliance with our counterparts in the region. Since its inception, the partnership has been invaluable in helping us create new connections and opportunities, both in the region and across the globe.

Indeed, Lake County, Illinois’ economy is in excellent shape. Over the last several years, Lake County’s Gross Domestic Product has grown 17.2%, reaching $76.4 billion. Real GDP was also up 2% in the same time frame. The GDP metric is considered the gold standard measure of overall economic activity because it accounts for the value of the final goods and services produced in an area.

Other economic indicators also give us plenty to celebrate. Not only does Lake County’s number of businesses now exceed pre-pandemic levels, but there are more people employed in Lake County than at this same point last year. Growth has been particularly prominent in key industries like advanced manufacturing, life science, healthcare and professional and technical services.

Business growth, coupled with a tight labor market, has further reinforced our laser-focus on talent development and business outreach. We are grateful to have your support and our partnerships with Lake County, the College of Lake County, the Tech Campus and area high schools in this endeavor. Thoughtful partnerships and a strategic work plan have always been the bedrock of Lake County Partners’ mission, and will be particularly important as we stand poised for future growth.

Economic projections from our partners at World Business Chicago indicate that we can expect to see a 20% increase in metro area GDP by 2028, and Lake County will enjoy another 1% uptick in jobs in that same time frame. Top sub-industries projected to grow include management and advanced manufacturing.

Economic growth is certain to be bolstered by local spending power. In 2023, consumer spending totaled $32.1 billion, which made the local business ecosystem the third largest by county in the entire state of Illinois, and roughly 15.9% of the entire metro area. This figure is expected to go up, with forecasts projecting an additional 12.8% spend over the next five years.

Chicagoland raised $4.73 billion in growth capital in 2023—including $2.61 billion in venture capital and $2.12 billion in private equity. Although this is a drop from the unprecedented levels of capital raised in 2021 and 2022, the volume of deals remained steadier in Chicago between 2022 and 2023: there were just 8 percent fewer deals in 2023, the smallest drop among compared metro areas.

Growth capital investment has been particularly powerful in fueling many of the same key industries that support Lake County’s economy— industrials, healthtech, fintech, manufacturing and life sciences. In 2023, Lake County companies raised nearly $140 million in growth capital through just 16 deals in these areas.

This has had favorable implications for commercial real estate, with Lake County seeing more than 22 investments in spaces of 20,000 sq. ft. or more in 2022. As of Q1 2024, Lake County has already seen a net absorption of over a quarter of a million sq. ft. of industrial space, and there is another 335,000 sq. ft. under construction through state-of-the-art projects happening in communities across the county.

It has been a very busy time, but one that is incredibly rewarding as well. Creating connections is at the heart of what Lake County Partners does, which is why a core focus of ours is meeting directly with business leaders to provide customized resources that they can leverage to grow. Lake County is fortunate to have many strong corporate leaders that work with the organization, and each other, and choose to invest in the community. It is because of them that Lake County has such a rich history of business success. Click here to connect with us and learn how your company can join in the success by leveraging our free resources.

Valent BioSciences Celebrates Expansion in Libertyville

LCP joined Valent BioSciences in celebrating the grand opening of the new Venburg Wing at the company’s Melnik and Shafer Biorational Research Center in Libertyville, Illinois, during a special ceremony. The event included remarks by Valent BioSciences senior leaders, local government and economic development officials, a ribbon cutting, plaque dedication, and refreshments for attendees and company employees.

Driven by business growth that has accelerated the need for additional research and development facilities, the state-of-the-art Venburg Wing includes new laboratory and pilot plant areas, offices, and meeting rooms. The space is named after Dr. Greg Venburg, Senior Director, Global Research at Valent BioSciences, who has served in a variety of leadership positions for the past 33 years. He currently manages the company’s interdisciplinary scientific research programs and research staff.

“This new wing in the Melnik and Shafer Biorational Research Center honors Greg’s many accomplishments over his long and distinguished career,” said Salman Mir, President and CEO of Valent BioSciences. “He has served in various R&D leadership roles and overseen the research, development, and introduction of major biorational technologies and products. Greg was also central to the planning, design, and construction of this facility and provided essential vision and leadership in forming the research teams working to develop innovative solutions to new and emerging biorational needs and opportunities. His contributions have been essential in helping us strengthen our industry leadership position.”

“I want to extend my congratulations to Valent BioSciences as they embark on this exciting expansion,” said Lake County Board Chair Sandy Hart. “Lake County is at the heart of life science and advanced manufacturing innovation because we have the talent, infrastructure, and resources to support growing companies and the quality of life their employees are looking for.”

“I’m thrilled to celebrate the Valent BioSciences expansion and am grateful for the firm’s long presence and continued investment in our community,” said Donna Johnson, Mayor, Village of Libertyville. “This is an example of the many innovative firms that continue to be attracted to the Village of Libertyville given the skilled employment base, strategic location, and supportive business environment.”

Through years of operating locally, Valent BioSciences’ leadership has become intimately familiar with all that Lake County has to offer businesses. The company’s decision to expand locally is a reflection of the community’s abundant talent, ideal location and high quality of life. These attributes have made Lake County a natural choice for companies looking to grow.

Likewise, Lake County’s strength is a direct reflection of responsible corporate citizens like Valent BioSciences, who take the time to work in the community to make a difference through in-kind and financial donations as well as volunteer support. At the ribbon cutting, local leaders stressed their appreciation of Valent BioSciences’ thoughtful approach to the environment, food security, community health and STEM education.

In particular, County Board Chair Sandy Hart thanked Valent BioSciences for its long-standing support of the Lake County Forest Preserves, where company employees removed invasive buckthorn to help us restore Rollins Savanna – one of the county’s largest prairie restoration projects, designed to create a natural habitat for grassland birds, waterfowl, and other wildlife. The company has also advanced the annual seed collection initiative by harvesting rare seeds that are being used in various Forest Preserve restoration projects; in fact, more than 300 seedlings have been donated and new gardening beds have been built for GreenTown Grows, a nonprofit community garden in Waukegan that has been providing local food pantries with fresh produce since 2007.

In Vernon Hills, Valent BioScience scientists joined a Lake County STEM for Girls event for hands-on experiences. From using microscopes to exploring thumbprints, they introduced students to fermented foods, microbes, and agriculture pests and inspired a new generation of leaders. Those examples, coupled with the company’s annual charity walk to support the Special Education District of Lake County, its team’s volunteer hours spent packing meals at Feed My Starving Children and blood drives and donations to CASA Lake County have made Valent BioSciences a prime example of the major impact that companies can have when the take the time and put forth the effort to invest in the community.

Valent BioSciences is also undertaking a major expansion at its Osage, Iowa, manufacturing facility that will be completed in early 2025. The additions include new production-scale fermentation and recovery equipment, a new pilot plant facility, and expanded laboratory space. To support its sustainability initiatives, the company has restored 34 acres of native prairie land adjacent to the Osage facility that will sequester approximately 170 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, helping mitigate the effects of greenhouse gases in the environment. The company also operates a 12-acre solar field on land adjacent to the prairie that provides a portion of the Osage facility’s total annual electricity usage.

Headquartered in Libertyville, Illinois, Valent BioSciences is a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Sumitomo Chemical Co., Ltd. Valent BioSciences is a global leader in the research, development, manufacturing, and commercialization of biorational products and technologies used in agriculture, public health, and forest health. Through its expertise in bioscience, Valent BioSciences helps growers profitably sustain their land and legacies and protects the public from insect-borne disease. The company has more than 60 years of experience bringing biorational products to market in more than 95 countries worldwide. Valent BioSciences is also the parent company of Mycorrhizal Applications LLC, a leading supplier of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi-based products.

How Can Lake County Partners Help Your Business Grow?

As Lake County’s economic development engine for over 25 years, Lake County Partners excels at working with business leaders to make decisions, leverage resources and grow in the community. Click here to connect with us and see how we can help you.

Empowering Lake County Students: A Path To Success

As the landscape of education evolves, so too does the responsibility to equip students with the skills and knowledge they need to thrive in the workforce. In Lake County, Illinois, Grayslake Community High School District 127 (D127) has been at the forefront of pioneering a groundbreaking endorsement process aimed at preparing students for successful careers. As a result of D127’s innovative administrative leaders, other schools in the county look to follow suit, the initiative is gaining momentum, thanks to dedicated efforts and collaborative partnerships.

The journey began with Grayslake D127’s commitment to providing students with opportunities to explore career pathways aligned with their interests and talents. Spearheading this effort, Gina Schuyler, alongside partners in the Lake County Workforce Ecosystem, including Lake County Partners, Lake County Workforce Development, and Regional Superintendent Dr. Michael Karner, initiated discussions to garner support for the initiative and establish best practices.

“We recognized the potential impact of such an endorsement process, especially in light of a new House Bill proposing its implementation in all Illinois schools,” noted Dr. Michael Karner, the Regional Superintendent of Schools. “Gina Schuyler has been at the forefront of career pathway innovation, and so the Regional Office of Education (ROE) contracted with her to learn from her expertise and help other Lake County schools adopt a similar framework. In the end, our students stand to benefit tremendously.”

Gina’s recent representation of Lake County schools at the Youth Build Conference in Washington DC, alongside Jennifer Serino from Workforce Development, Jacob Cushing from College of Lake County (CLC), and Marcus Jordan from the Department of Labor, has further solidified partnerships and opened doors for Lake County’s involvement in the Career Z Challenge.

“The Career Z Challenge, a national initiative aimed at promoting career readiness and workforce development, presents an exciting opportunity for Lake County to showcase its commitment to preparing students for the future,” observed Dr. Karner. “This challenge not only highlights the innovative approaches adopted by schools like Grayslake D127 but also offers the chance to secure resources and recognition to further enhance career education initiatives across the county.”

One significant aspect of this journey has been the invaluable support from the business community. By engaging local business leaders and showcasing the exceptional talent pool within Lake County, schools have fostered partnerships that benefit both students and employers. Initiatives such as the Nuts, Bolts & Thingamajigs Middle School grant awarded to Grayslake D127 have provided students with hands-on experiences in manufacturing, paving the way for future collaborations and opportunities. This year’s summer event filled in less than a day.

The impact of these efforts is evident in the growing ecosystem of support for career education and workforce development in Lake County. From professional development opportunities for teachers to student-led challenges that bridge the gap between education and industry, Lake County is fostering a culture of innovation, collaboration, and success.

As a result of a professional development exercise that Grayslake D127 hosted for Tech Ed teachers, Mundelein took the lead and hosted the first ever METT Team Challenge held at the College of Lake County’s Advanced Technology Center.

“Community members from the manufacturing, engineering, technology and trades came to assess student work and provide mentorship,” observed Dr. Anthony Kroll, Mundelein High School’s Assistant Superintendent. “These events are critical because they expose students to new ideas while simultaneously helping local employers tap into Lake County’s vast talent pipeline.”

As the community continues to invest in the future of its students, such partnerships and initiatives will pave the way for a brighter, more prosperous tomorrow for Lake County, the state of Illinois, and beyond. Together, impassioned educators like Gina Schuyler are shaping the next generation of leaders, innovators, and change-makers, ensuring that they are equipped to thrive in the ever-evolving landscape of the 21st-century workforce.

Pioneering Packaging Excellence In Lake County, Illinois

At Lake County Partners’ upcoming Big Event, 500+ business and community leaders will gather to honor the year’s Community Investment Award winner: Josh Fischer and his team at Fischer Paper Products.

In Lake County’s bustling world of business, Fischer Paper Products stands out not only for its long-term success story, having spent 50+ years evolving to meet the packaging needs of its clients from its home base in Antioch, but also for its commitment to innovation, sustainability, and community impact.

Fischer Paper Products is a third-generation, family-owned company known for its high-quality, food-safe paper packaging products, predominantly used in the food service industry by well-known chains like Culver’s, In-N-Out, Kwik Trip, Circle K, Sysco, US Foods and others. Each year, the company manufactures over 2 billion bags, including its iconic Cris P. Tater French fry bag commonly found in restaurants across the Midwest.

From its headquarters in Antioch, Fischer Paper Products employs more than 140, including 60+ skilled workers responsible for operating its 22 paper packaging machines. The company moved into the 175,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art facility in 2020 to accommodate seven additional production lines, creating 50 new jobs and space for future growth as well. The project represented a major long-term investment and commitment to the Lake County community.

“Fischer Paper Products is an exemplary corporate partner,” said Antioch Mayor Scott J. Gartner. “The company’s commitment isn’t merely financial. Their team puts the time and energy into developing highly-skilled employees and providing them with rewarding careers. They give back in meaningful ways outside of their offices too. We were grateful for their financial support of the Treehouse Community Playground, which will open in the village this summer and promote inclusive play for local children.”

At the heart of Fischer Paper Products’ success is its team. Fischer’s leadership relies on Lake County’s strong talent pipeline to create and execute new ideas and stay ahead of industry trends. The company takes pride in its number of long-term employees, some of whom have been with the business for over 35 years.

In the broader community, President and Owner Josh Fischer has sat on the Lake County Workforce Development Board for the past 4 years, and Laura Walker, the company’s Human Resources Manager, is a founding member of the Industrial Technology Advisory Committee, which was established in 2020.

“Fischer Paper Products stands out as one of Lake County’s most committed small businesses,” notes Jennifer Serino, the Executive Director at Lake County Workforce Development. “Josh is a thought leader, collaborating with the Workforce Development Board to lead performance-driven strategies that develop, align and integrate Lake County’s workforce to meet the needs of business today and in the future.”

Fischer Paper Products was also an inaugural member of the College of Lake County (CLC) Manufacturing Alliance Advisory Board, a workforce and economic development initiative to promote a strong, employer-led stakeholder group to enhance Lake County’s talent pipeline, leverage collective resources to address industry challenges, and support local and regional manufacturing sector growth.

“Lake County’s manufacturing community is strong and tight-knit,” observes Josh Fischer. “As business owners, we have countless resources at our fingertips, but we have to work together to capitalize on them and forge even greater opportunities. When the College of Lake County embarked on the build out of its cutting-edge Advanced Technology Center (ATC), we knew we had to get involved to help shape students’ manufacturing skills and ignite their passion for manufacturing.”

According to John Butler, Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations at the College of Lake County, “Fischer is one of CLC’s most holistic corporate partners. Fischer has been generous with its philanthropy, naming the instructional learning lab at the Advanced Technology Center to promote a pipeline of skilled workers and creating the Fischer Paper Products Scholarship, which supports students pursuing an education in CLC’s manufacturing-related career technical programs who have demonstrated financial need.”

Elsewhere in the community, Fischer Paper Products uses donations and drives to support the Northern Illinois Food Bank, the Versiti Blood Center of Illinois, Antioch’s Traveling Closet, Open Arms Mission Food Pantry, the Condell Centre Club and more. It sponsors local events, sports teams and initiatives in many Lake County communities including Antioch, Lake Villa and Lindenhurst.

“There are countless examples why Fischer Paper Products deserves accolades, making the company an easy choice for this year’s Community Investment Award,” said Kevin Considine, Lake County Partners’ president and CEO. “Fischer Paper Products is a model of what it means to give back to the community, and it will be an honor to recognize their team at the Big Event.”

Lake County Partners’ Signature Big Event On Track For Record Success

Lake County Partners is thrilled to announce that it is on track for another sold out “Big Event” at the Lincolnshire Marriott Resort, this Thursday, May 9th. This signature breakfast event will once again bring together hundreds of key stakeholders, business leaders, and innovators from across the region, making it the premier platform for economic growth and collaboration in Lake County.

The Big Event showcases Lake County’s dynamic business community and economic strength, and it is a catalyst for collaboration, idea exchange, inspiration and networking. The program is renowned for its cutting-edge economic development insights, and this year will focus on the monumental impact of artificial intelligence (AI). Keynote Speaker Rajeev Kapur, best-selling author of the book AI Made Simple: A Beginner’s Guide to Generative Intelligence, will present his revolutionary look at the way that AI is transforming society, shaping technology and creating new opportunities.

“We are looking forward to a tremendous turnout and enthusiastic participation this year,” noted Steve Madden, CEO of Libertyville Bank & Trust Company, N.A., and Chair of Lake County Partners’ Board of Governors. “It has been an exceptionally strong year for economic growth in Lake County and the broader Chicagoland region. The Big Event provides a unique occasion to gather together with our partners, celebrate our wins, and set the stage for future success.”

Big Event attendees will also receive special insights from Lake County Board Chair Sandy Hart. “Lake County’s high quality of life is the result of strategic community investments, skilled talent, a supportive business environment, and collaborative partnerships,” observed Hart. “Our abundant resources have fueled regional prosperity and reinforced Lake County’s standing as a national hub for innovation and opportunity.”

One company that has leveraged its Lake County location to expand is Fischer Paper Products. At the Big Event, the company will be honored with the 2024 Community Investment Award for its commitment to Lake County and investment in workforce partnerships and the talent pipeline.

“Fischer Paper Products has had a presence in Chicagoland for over 52 years, and our long history is the direct reflection of support we’ve received from the community,” noted President and Owner Josh Fischer. “When we weighed options for the company’s long-term growth, Lake County was a natural choice. In working with local officials, the Village of Antioch, Lake County Workforce Development, the College of Lake County and Lake County Partners, we’ve been able to tap into the workforce that we need to drive momentum for future generations.”

Lake County workforce development powerhouses like Gina Schuyler, the CTE Department Chair for Careers and Community Partnerships at Grayslake Community High School District 127, are behind the success of businesses across the county. Schuyler will be honored at the Big Event with Lake County Partners’ inaugural Talent Advancement Award for her noteworthy efforts to forge bold new career pathways and mentorship programs.

“Gina thinks outside of the box, and her visionary approach has had a profound effect on students,” noted Mikkel Storaasli, Ed.D., Superintendent at Grayslake Community High School District 127. “Her work ethic has quite literally shaped the future of education across the state of Illinois, and her dedication will have a lasting impact on students’ lives and the trajectory of business.”

The anticipated success of the Big Event underscores Lake County Partners’ commitment to fostering growth, creating new jobs, driving innovation, and enhancing Lake County’s competitiveness. By bringing together diverse stakeholders and thought leaders, Lake County Partners continues to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of the region, helping businesses actualize their full potential, and advancing the community’s economic development goals.

The Big Event is made possible with generous support from the Lake County business community including Lake County, the College of Lake County, Old National Bank, the Hunter Family Foundation, Schreiber Philanthropy, Abbott, Comcast, the Gorter Family Foundation, Libertyville Bank & Trust Company, N.A., Advocate Condell Medical Center, Aston Carter, BCI Acrylic, CBRE, City of Hope, Great Lakes Credit Union, Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, JP Morgan Chase, Lake County Workforce Development, Pace Suburban Bus, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, Wight & Company, UCC Environmental, The Upper Illinois River Valley Development Authority, Van Vlissingen and Co., Five Grain Events and World Business Chicago.

A very limited number of tickets remain. Click here to get yours while they’re still available.

Setting the Standard for Sustainability in Lake County, Illinois

From its location in the heart of the Midwest, Chicagoland serves as a model for forward-thinking sustainability. The region’s green reputation has been won through strategic initiatives, financial incentives and innovative green infrastructure that serves as a model for communities across the country and the globe.

Nowhere is this more evident than in Lake County, where sustainable projects and long-term commitments abound. Lake County is an active participant in the Greenest Region Compact (GRC), a document developed by the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus which outlines 49 sustainability goals based on municipal, regional, national, and global priorities. The county, along with 29 communities and the Lake County Municipal League, signed onto this compact to pledge a strong commitment to environmental stewardship. Impressively, nearly 73% of Lake County residents live in a community that is signatory to the GRC.

Moreover, Lake County has committed to attaining net zero greenhouse gas emissions for its operations. This includes reducing direct emissions, diverting waste from landfills, and utilizing 100% renewable energy by 2040.

Lake County, Illinois is a Leader in Sustainability & Wellness

Last September, the Lake County Board approved a resolution committing Lake County government operations to the goal of attaining net zero greenhouse gas emissions. The resolution commits Lake County to the following:

  • By the year 2030, reducing greenhouse gas emissions from its operations by 50%, and achieving at least a 60% diversion rate of recyclables and organics from its own waste stream;

  • By the year 2040, procuring 100% renewable energy, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 90% or more, and achieving at least a 90% diversion rate of recyclables and organics;

  • Ensuring that all new County facilities constructed after 2020 be evaluated for their potential for net zero certification;

  • Publicly reporting progress toward these goals on an annual basis; and,

  • Inviting and encouraging municipalities and townships throughout the county to join in the effort to reduce the environmental impact of the operations required to provide public service to the residents and businesses of Lake County

Lake County government has also demonstrated its commitment by recently launching a new sustainability webpage filled with resources to help residents incorporate best practices and learn more about topics including: the Lake County Tree Initiative, Solar Switch, the circular economy, net zero planning for 2040, single-use plastics policies, and net zero energy building.

In the case of Solar Switch, residents benefit from a group buying program that provides a discounted price on rooftop solar installation on homes and businesses. Solar panel systems have become increasingly popular as the price has gone down – 75% over the last 16 years – and a federal solar tax credit of up to 30% has been issued.

The county also offers support for its Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) finance program – an innovative tool that enables commercial property owners to obtain up to 100% long-term fixed-rate financing for projects involving energy efficiency, renewable energy, resiliency, water use and electric vehicle charging.

“Lake County takes a thoughtful, wholistic approach towards sustainability,” reports Sustainability Programs Manager Robin Grooms. “We make a concerted effort to incorporate green practices wherever possible, and we focus on initiatives that have a long-term impact and promote and preserve our community’s high quality of life.”

In addition to the county’s work on its Regional Tree Initiative, and the C-PACE and Solar Switch programs, staff is also actively taking steps to:

  1. Implement a Sustainability Model Ordinance Engagement Plan
  2. Amend the County’s procurement standards to incorporate the strategic plan’s sustainability goals
  3. Decrease single use plastic within government operations
  4. Conduct an operations-wide waste assessment for all departments
  5. Increase the amount of renewable energy generated by the county year over year
  6. Increase the number of new electric and hybrid replacement vehicles
  7. Decrease the amount of energy used at county facilities year over year
  8. Explore a variety of ordinance topics that support bird friendly design, dark sky and EV charging

When it comes to staying ahead of green building trends, Lake County shines. Lake County is the proud home of the first Net Zero verified building in Illinois, at the Adlai Stevenson High School Science Addition, reflecting a growing trend toward sustainable infrastructure in the region. This shift underscores the increasing environmental consciousness and demand among residents for eco-friendly practices.

Laying the Groundwork for Green Buildings

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, emphasizing its holistic nature. Building and community design play crucial roles in fostering wellness by prioritizing the occupants’ overall well-being. Features such as ample natural light, healthy indoor air quality, and access to outdoor spaces contribute to increased productivity and a positive work environment.

At the community level, green spaces and walkable neighborhoods with amenities and public transportation options promote inclusivity and well-being. By integrating health and sustainability, communities can enhance quality of life, cultivate a sense of belonging, and support overall health and happiness, attracting both businesses and residents alike.

“Our extensive work helping clients incorporate sustainable practices in projects across the Chicago region has demonstrated that net zero goals and wellness opportunities offers a myriad of benefits,” said Megan Zack, the Chief Sustainability Officer at Wight & Company. “Energy-efficient buildings not only reduce operational costs but also enhance marketability and asset value while minimizing environmental impact. Simultaneously, wellness features contribute to occupant health, productivity, and satisfaction, resulting in lower absenteeism and higher retention rates. This comprehensive approach not only appeals to tenants and investors seeking sustainable, healthy spaces but also positions communities as leaders in sustainability, ensuring long-term profitability and resilience in an increasingly conscious market landscape.”

Zack was part of a team from Wight & Company that recently presented an overview of sustainability and wellness best practices in planning and design to more than 50 public sector leaders at Lake County Partner’s Municipal Economic Development Advisory Group meeting series, sponsored by Libertyville Bank & Trust Company, N.A., and and Wintrust Financial Corporation

The Wight & Company team emphasized a viewpoint that sees buildings as preventative care, stressing the market demand for wellness-oriented communities. The estimated value of the global wellness community market stands at a whopping $134 billion, with an annual growth rate of 6.9%.

For those considering energy updates, Zack says now is the perfect time to act. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), coupled with the incentives from Illinois Shines and ComEd, offer substantial cost coverage for installing solar panels on homes or businesses. These financial incentives provide a 4–6-year payback followed by significant energy savings over the next two decades. Additionally, the IRA extends tax credits to single-family homes, multi-family dwellings, and commercial buildings for equipment upgrades and electrification, beyond just solar installations.

How Can You Benefit Financially While Supporting the Environment?

With more than 25 years of experience assembling resources to sustainably support growing businesses and fuel Lake County’s economy, Lake County Partners can help your company assess available incentives. Connect with us here to learn more.

Nurturing Futures In Lake County For Over 50 Years

In the heart of Waukegan, Illinois, a program with a rich history and a legacy of serving youth in Lake County is celebrating a significant milestone – its 50th year of youth development and environmental stewardship. Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) in Waukegan has been a place for new beginnings and a catalyst for change, bridging the gap between education and practical skills and contributing to the vibrant Lake County business and nonprofit ecosystem.

The Youth Conservation Corps was established in Waukegan half a century ago with a visionary purpose: to provide young individuals with opportunities to learn, grow, and contribute to their community. Over the years, the program has evolved, adapting to the changing needs of both the participants and the community. The YCC has become synonymous with fostering career readiness, environmental stewardship, and leadership.

YCC offers comprehensive programming that focuses on the whole person, with counseling, life skills, high school education completion as well as developing crucial career skills, preparing participants for a successful future. One of the key pathways offered is in construction, providing hands-on experience and the opportunity to earn career-ready certifications.

Additionally, the program recognizes the growing importance of technology in today’s workforce. The YCC offers a pathway to CompTIA certifications, giving participants a competitive edge to enter the rapidly evolving digital workforce. This dual focus on construction and technology ensures that YCC graduates build their own paths to success and are ready to tackle the challenges of the modern job market.

Partnerships Are Integral To Lake County’s Economic Growth

The success of the Youth Conservation Corps in Waukegan is not a solitary achievement but a result of collaborative efforts with key partners in the Lake County economic development ecosystem. The program has strategically aligned itself with a number of local organizations committed to fostering talent and creating a skilled workforce:

  • Lake County Workforce Development: YCC collaborates closely with Lake County Workforce Development, ensuring that the skills imparted align with the current needs of the local job market. This partnership strengthens the connection between education and employment, enhancing the overall employability of YCC participants.

  • College of Lake County (CLC): Through its partnership with CLC, the YCC facilitates seamless transitions for participants who wish to pursue further education. This collaboration opens doors to additional learning opportunities, empowering YCC graduates to pursue advanced degrees and specialized training.

  • Lake County Forest Preserve: Environmental stewardship is at the core of YCC’s mission, and the partnership with the Lake County Forest Preserve allows participants to engage in meaningful conservation projects. This collaboration not only benefits the environment but also instills a sense of responsibility and civic pride.

  • Comcast – Digital Literacy: In an era dominated by technology, digital literacy is a non-negotiable skill. The partnership with Comcast enables YCC participants to access cutting-edge digital literacy programs, ensuring they are well-equipped for the challenges of the digital age.

  • Others: The YCC continues to explore and develop partnerships with other businesses and organizations in Lake County, creating a network that amplifies the impact of the program on the local community. Pace Suburban Bus, ConnectLakeCounty and Urban Farm at CLC are partners with whom YCC is collaborating on programs to support and enhance the lives of our members.

Upcoming Opportunities To Get Involved With Youth Conservation Corps

As the Youth Conservation Corps marks its 50th anniversary, you are invited to celebrate and support this impactful program. One notable event on the horizon is “Rockegan,” scheduled for April 18, 2024. This rock and blues concert at the Genesee Theater serves as a platform to showcase the achievements of YCC participants, highlight their projects, and raise awareness within the Lake County business community.

“Rockegan” provides an opportunity to witness firsthand the impact of YCC, explore ways to get involved, and enjoy the music of Waukegan’s own Ivy Ford. Whether through sponsorship, mentorship, or direct engagement with the program, the event offers a chance for the Lake County business community to play an active role in shaping the future of the local workforce.

“YCC has had a long-term, significant impact on workforce development in Lake County,” observed Lake County Board Member and YCC supporter Marah Altenberg. “Rockegan provides an opportunity to celebrate the organization’s many achievements and contributions to young talent. We are fortunate to have such dedicated mentorship in the community.”

The Top 10 Reasons to Locate Your Life Science Business in Lake County, Illinois

There are countless reasons that Lake County, Illinois leads in life science. We’re breaking down the top 10 to show why the area’s huge concentration of industry leaders, enormous pool of talent, and infrastructure of support can help you make the most of your business. By the time you get to the end of the list, feel free to contact us and learn more. We can help you get settled in among Lake County’s impressive roster of globally-recognized brands, mid-sized companies and innovative startups and learn why the area is a national leader in biotech.


As the home of the 3rd largest life science industry nationwide, and the largest in the Midwest, Lake County is the location of choice for many the world’s leading brands, including AbbVie, Abbott, Baxter, Amgen, and more. Chicago’s northern suburbs also host the headquarters or major operations for many international leaders including Lundbeck, Astellas, Fresenius Kabi, and Takeda. Include younger start-ups like Jaguar Gene Therapy and Nexus Pharma, and you have a vibrant life science ecosystem.


Approximately 51% of the life science jobs in the state of Illinois are located in Lake County. With 160+ companies, including 10 major corporate headquarters, 23,000+ jobs and $31.4 billion in total sales, the life science industry is Lake County’s largest economic sector and a huge draw for highly-skilled professionals in pursuit of jobs. It’s no wonder that the area accounts for $15.6 billion in Gross Regional Product (GRP), accounting for 71.3% of Illinois’ total output.

Chicago’s northern suburbs also have a strong base of support in contract research organizations, specialty manufacturers and a wide variety of professional service firms with deep experience serving life science clients. The powerhouse cluster of biotech leaders has drawn plenty of attention, with the area landing in the top 5 locations of bioscience venture capital.


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 in an array of disciplines including neuroscience, molecular biology, pharmacy, medicine and more.

Because Illinois is one of the top states in the country producing science and engineering-focused bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees, students don’t go far before returning to Lake County to pursue a rewarding career. The area is also a national leader in biotech research and development, with some of the best minds in life science at Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science and more.


With more than 5.6 million people within a commute radius from Lake County, and 40,000 of them working in life science, you have access to the deepest talent pool in the Midwest, which includes a crop of newly minted college graduates and seasoned professionals exploring new opportunities.

In fact, Chicagoland is the #1 destination for BIG TEN university graduates. The 14 universities in the BIG TEN (we know, don’t ask), graduate thousands of students each year with life science-related degrees.


Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science is renowned for fostering innovation. The school’s 97-acre campus includes a new Innovation and Research Park with move-in-ready wet lab space designed to fuel collaboration between researchers and industry. State-of-the-art simulation labs, coupled with cutting-edge clinics, regular workshops and the Helix 51 incubator set a nurturing stage for start-ups, early-stage companies and international businesses looking for a “soft landing” in the Midwest.

Beyond Rosalind Franklin, young companies can tap into the resources available to the greater Chicago-Milwaukee market, which is ranked #1 in the Midwest for startups based on the region’s stellar activity, access to resources and nurturing business climate.


Chicagoland’s robust life science sector recently landed it on the top 10 locations in the country for biopharma activity according to Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News. Importantly, its strength lies in funding for life science, patents awarded, dedicated lab space and number of industry jobs. Lake County’s prime location ensures that you can easily tap into life science talent and assets from across the entire Chicago-Milwaukee metro region.


Illinois’ life science industry has enjoyed considerable growth, from legacy Lake County companies such as Abbott, AbbVie, and Amgen, to startups spun out of the state’s research universities.

Hundreds of thousands of square feet of new wet lab space are currently under development—much of it in close proximity to Lake County—and the state has paved the way for new high-tech facilities by launching a $9 million capital program aimed at expanding access to space and encouraging industry breakthroughs.


Lake County’s location between Chicago and Milwaukee, along the I-94 corridor, provides convenient one-day access to a large swath of North American industry. When it comes to attracting talent, strong multimodal connectivity makes recruiting and commuting around the region a snap.

Three nearby international airports—O’Hare International (the most connected in the world), Mitchell International, and Midway—provide global access, while executives enjoy the perks of full-service private aircrafts at Waukegan National Airport.


Lake County’s large population enjoys a wide variety of communities and housing options. Local municipalities are regularly ranked among the top in the region and the nation because of the high-quality schools, recreational opportunities, transportation, healthcare access, fiscal stability and leadership. Here, you can have the career you want, and the life you want.

Simply put, people enjoy Lake County both in and outside of the office, which is why so many employees choose to live locally.


With a population of roughly 700,000, Lake County has close to 150,00 foreign-born community members. Chicagoland regularly ranks among the most diverse in the country, which brings a wide variety of valuable perspectives and experience to the table to drive your business forward.