As we near the 1-year anniversary of the COVID-19 lockdown, business continues to look a lot different than it once did. Through our work administering Lake County’s Small Business Development grant, we are all too familiar with the struggles of our small business community and know there is much more work to be done.
The accelerating rollout of multiple vaccines and loosening of quarantine regulations make us hopeful for a return to normalcy. So does the news that we are hearing from local business leaders. Two of Lake County’s key industries—life sciences and advanced manufacturing—are seeing a surge in growth. There is huge demand for packaging, PPE, testing and healthcare supplies; existing companies are expanding, and new businesses are relocating to Lake County to meet the need.
A continued tight labor market is driving wage increases and forcing businesses to explore new ways to attract, retain and upskill talent. As a result, we have seen an uptick in business engagement as companies reach out to take advantage of Workforce Ecosystem resources. We are hearing strong optimism for increased revenue and hiring this year. That hope is reflected in our project pipeline, which includes deals that could potentially result in more than 1.1 million sq. ft. of new and revamped space and 600+ jobs.
With speculative development soaring, a string of expansions at companies like Abbott, Visual Pak, Medline, Xttrium Labs, Luxor Furniture and Fischer Paper Products, new businesses such as Mighty Hook, AZ Polymers and LightMart putting down roots, significant investments in workforce development at the College of Lake County and Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, and big announcements primed for the coming months, we are confident that Lake County will emerge from the year-long disruption in a position of strength. We are doing our part to make it happen, and we are excited to see what the next few quarters bring.