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‘Making the difference, and it is working’

NCI group pushes for economic development across Illinois Valley

A photo taken last summer shows the progress that had been made up to that point on demolishing the former steel mill building in Hennepin. "The problems with this site need to be resolved for the sake of the whole region," Ivan Baker, president and CEO of the North Central Illinois Economic Development Corp., told the Hennepin Village Board last year.
A photo taken last summer shows the progress that had been made up to that point on demolishing the former steel mill building in Hennepin. "The problems with this site need to be resolved for the sake of the whole region," Ivan Baker, president and CEO of the North Central Illinois Economic Development Corp., told the Hennepin Village Board last year.

Business leaders from all over the world are now more aware of what the North Central Illinois area has to offer because of the marketing efforts of the region’s economic development group.

The North Central Illinois Economic Development Corp. (NCIEDC) was formed a little over two years ago and has played a role in getting leaders to consider the area’s assets when thinking about a business endeavor.

Ivan Baker, president and CEO of the NCIEDC, told Bureau County Board members at their meeting in Princeton recently that the number of business leaders looking at the region is up 400 percent compared to what it was before the group was formed.

“You can’t get projects until you start off with having leads that are willing to look at sites,” he said.

“That’s why the 250 leaders, including all of you in Bureau, LaSalle and Putnam counties, formed the NCIEDC, so we would compete, market ourselves and not sit back and wait for something to happen, but be progressive, instead of regressive in creating more opportunities, more investment, more tax revenue for the region. You’re making the difference, and it is working.”

Baker said currently the region has 21 projects in its pipeline, compared to only four projects two years ago.

“Those pipeline projects include companies from Ireland, from China, from Italy. Those projects bring 1,500 new jobs if they come to the area and almost $3 million in annual property tax revenue. We need that in our region,” he said.

Western Bureau County

Baker also spoke about a recent meeting he had with leaders representing the western side of Bureau County. He said NCIEDC had been approached by the Iowa Interstate Rail, which was looking for a better site on their rail line in Bureau County.

Around that time, Sheffield Village President Steve Endress and village board members were establishing a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District that covered the western side of the village.

Baker said Sheffield’s TIF District is the only major industrial area zoned for federal benefits in the region.

“Thank goodness, because they have …100 acres in that part of Bureau County. It’s fantastic. The railroad is marketing it, we’re marketing it, and it gives us more opportunity to create jobs and more tax revenue,” he said.

Bureau County Board member Keith Cain (R-Princeton) said the Iowa Interstate Rail is “real aggressive” in getting more traffic on its tracks.

“Nothing against Burlington Northern, but they’re big enough they don’t worry about that stuff. The representative from the small railroad was very, very positive, very aggressive and with the mayor of Sheffield, the whole meeting was very productive,” he said.

Putnam County

Earlier last year, Baker met with the Hennepin Village Board to talk about economic development and how the nearby former steel mill fits into the picture.

“The problems with this site need to be resolved for the sake of the whole region,” Baker said at that time.

Baker described the site as being similar to “owning a great car, but without a clear title.”

“Hennepin has one of the best sites, not just locally, but in the entire Midwest. But those four lawsuits involving the steel mill are tying everything up,” Baker said.

Investors have looked at and considered the site, but Baker added they expect a site to be clear and project-ready with all utilities and access available.

“You’d have to practically give it away with the condition it’s in currently, and we don’t want to do that,” Baker said of the unsightly 853-acre site.

Baker said it’s a perfect location with nearby interstate, rail and river access, and that support from local leaders has been valuable. While the demolition has been proceeding at the former steel mill, Baker added the lawsuits surrounding the steel mill need to be resolved before investors would seriously consider the site.

“Everybody is ready to move on this, and the current situation is troublesome for all of Putnam County and, really, for all of the Illinois Valley,” he said.

Note to readers: Dave Cook contributed to this story.


Proof that regional salesmanship efforts are working

The following are summaries of the successful efforts of the North Central Illinois Economic Development Corp.'s efforts to bring commercial investments to the Illinois Valley:

Mexican manufacturer adding 100 more jobs in region

Xignux, a Mexican corporation, completed acquisition of American Bare Conductor in LaSalle and will be adding 100 employees to the current workforce of 41 by 2019.

The 290,000 square-foot facility is now part of Xignux’ Viakable CME Wire & Cable division (VKMUSA) manufacturing electric wire and cable. This industrial consortium, based in Mexico, employs more than 20,000 people worldwide.

“We are happy to be in LaSalle and grow our business in the Illinois Valley,” Adolfo Riveron, CEO of Viakable LaSalle, stated.

This acquisition by Xignux demonstrates the advantages of Illinois, the fifth largest state for foreign direct investment.

Fortune 200 company builds $160 million new plant

Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) will soon open a new $160 million milling facility off the BNSF Mainline Railroad in Mendota. At least 60 people will be employed to grind different varieties of wheat to meet the demands of bakers throughout the Midwest. ADM operates 5 facilities in North Central Illinois. 

”We are able to meet ongoing demand growth, drive efficiency, use new technologies, and leverage our capabilities. We are pleased to continue investing here,” Mark Kolkhorst, president of ADM Milling, said.

German company establishes North American headquarters in the Illinois Valley

Fliegl Agrartechnik, the largest manufacturer of agricultural trailers worldwide, has relocated its North American Headquarters from Elkhart, Wis. to Utica to serve dealers and customers more efficiently. Fliegl is investing in expanding its presence in the North American market, and the Utica facility will increase the capability to maintain the demand Fliegl is seeing with its steady growth in North America.  

Fliegl produces push-off trailers, dump trailers and manure tankers to provide solutions for the transport and forestry industry. Currently, Fliegl has 29 locations in 20 different countries and employs more than 1,000 people worldwide. This German company's headquarters are in Mühldorf, Bavaria.

Other manufacturing growth

Other expansions included Diversifoam Products, Northern White Sands, Starved Rock Wood Products, and U.S. Silica, which resulting in the creation of nearly 200 new regional jobs. The successful connection between Metro-Chicago and the Interstate-80-39 corridor of North Central Illinois has provided a profit-making opportunity for hundreds of manufacturing, technology and distribution companies.

“This continuing industrial growth demonstrates the strength of our region for business investment,” Jim Riley, chairman of the NCIEDC, said.

“This area's location, logistics, tax base, and business climate are important for our success,” David Mennie, president of Mennie Machine, said. “We ship worldwide, so cost-saving advantages here in North Central Illinois make a difference.”

For more information on the region, check out the website at www.NorthCentralIllinois.org or call 815-224-0645.

Source: www.northcentralillinois.org.

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