Lake County Celebrates Increases in Population, Businesses and GDP

The new year kicked off with fantastic economic news, presented by World Business Chicago (WBC) to Lake County Partners’ Municipal Economic Development Group at its first meeting of the year.

The highly engaged group, comprised of City Managers and senior staff from municipalities across Lake County, has been meeting quarterly for over eight years to get insights into the latest economic development trends and access to tools that serve the needs of the county’s diverse communities. The meeting series is hosted by Libertyville Bank & Trust, in the family of the Wintrust Community Banks.

“Wintrust Community Bank serves the entire Chicago metro region and extends into southern Wisconsin and northwest Indiana. Our priority is supporting local communities by engaging in local organizations and events,” said Libertyville Bank & Trust Chief Executive Officer and Lake County Partners Board of Governors Vice Chair Steve Madden. “It is important for us to develop and strengthen relationships with the very leaders that make Lake County so vibrant. This municipal meeting forum is a perfect fit because we can share our extensive financial expertise in a format that also relays the personal touch of a small institution.”

Other economic indicators also paint a picture of solid economic health in Lake County. In just three years—from 2018 to 2021—Lake County’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew 9.6%, reaching $69.7 billion. Real GDP was also up 1.1% 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.

The GDP increase is inextricably linked with the growth of local businesses—an area where Lake County once again shines. As of Q2 2022, Lake County had 20,278 businesses, which exceeds pre-pandemic levels. As a result, demand for labor continues to increase. The number of job postings went up 36% between 2019 and 2022. Growth was particularly prominent in in-demand fields such as nursing, software development, retail and customer service. Importantly, these are high-quality jobs with a median advertised hourly salary of $21.02.

“The tight labor market has resulted in a very low unemployment rate of 4.1% which is close to pre-pandemic levels and greatly improved from the 14.2% rate experienced at the peak of COVID,” said LCP’s Director of Strategy and Intelligence Bethany Williams. “Lake County’s key industries of life science, advanced manufacturing, healthcare and professional and technical services will continue to thrive, and we expect to see outputs grow. This means that we must engage all of our human resources, which is why LCP’s strategy is so laser-focused on talent development and business outreach.”

“Lake County is a great model of economic development. The economy is in excellent shape, and the entire Chicagoland region is poised for future growth,” said WBC Regional Director of Research Hannah Loftus. “Economic projections indicate that you can expect to see a 21.8% increase in metro area GDP by 2027, and Lake County will enjoy another 2.8% uptick in jobs in that same time frame. Top sub-industries projected to grow include company management, restaurants, education, advanced manufacturing, child care and computer systems design. All told, those will help generate over 10,000 new jobs. LCP’s strategic business support, coupled with the power of the new Greater Chicagoland Regional Partnership, will sustain the forward momentum.”

Economic growth is certain to be bolstered by local spending power. In 2022, consumer spending totaled $20.8 billion, which made the local business ecosystem the third largest by county in the entire state of Illinois, and roughly 9% of the entire metro area. This figure is expected to go up, with forecasts projecting an additional 14.8% spend over the next five years.

The year was also record-breaking for Chicagoland’s growth capital ecosystem, with $18.38 billion in raised—including $10.36 billion in venture capital and $8.02 billion in private equity. This figure has continued to climb over the past several years, having grown 14.28 billion over the last four years alone.

Growth capital investment has been particularly powerful in fueling many of the same key industries that support Lake County’s economy—manufacturing, life sciences, information technology, finance, consumer and business products, healthcare, energy, transportation, distribution and logistics. In 2022, Lake County companies raised $89.79 million in growth capital through just 15 deals in these areas.

This has had favorable implications for commercial real estate, with Lake County seeing more than 20 investments in spaces of 20,000 sq. ft. or more in 2022. As a result, the industrial market is particularly tight; vacancy remains at 3.59% – a historic low. Last year, Lake County saw a net absorption of 908,035 sq. ft. of industrial space, and there is another 367,750 sq. ft. under construction through big, state-of-the-art projects like the Hawthorn Mall redevelopment and the Panattoni development in Vernon Hills and the Bridge Point Development in Mundelein. Overall, Lake County’s real estate costs remain competitive in the metro area.

“The upbeat data shared by World Business Chicago at the recent municipal meeting is completely in line with what we are seeing in Vernon Hills and more broadly across the county,” said Jon Petrillo, Vernon Hills’ Assistant Village Manager. “There has been tremendous investment, and our economy continues to thrive. In Lake County, you’ll find leaders who are willing to work with businesses and open to innovative development that strategically lays the groundwork for future growth.”


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