Fans of the A-Team TV show of the 1980s will remember that at the end of every episode, Col. Hannibal Smith would light up a victory cigar and say, “I love it when a plan comes together.”
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker could well do the same after putting together an impressive track record of economic development success since enacting his 5-year economic plan and blueprint for growth.
After implementing the plan in 2019, Illinois saw more than $4 billion in capital investment from more than 240 companies in 2020 – expansion projects that created 13,000 new jobs. The tally was enough to propel Illinois to fourth in the Site Selection magazine Governor’s Cup standings for 2020, with 329 qualifying investment deals.
On top of that, Chicago once again took home the trophy as the Top Metro of the Year from Site Selection, securing 327 corporate expansion projects in 2020, cementing the Windy City as the most dominant city in America for well over a decade.
Pritzker’s plan focuses on building a diverse economy by maintaining a strong foundation in agriculture, technology, life sciences, energy, manufacturing, and transportation and logistics.
The governor’s blueprint also includes reinvigorated funding for education, workforce training and infrastructure. Among other endeavors, the governor is funding expansion of broadband connectivity in rural communities, creating labs that focus on developing clean energy technology near universities, and granting startups access to the R&D tax credit.
He’s also streamlining obsolete regulations and making it easier for businesses to access state services. In workforce development, he’s increased funding for the Monetary Award Program, which helps poor students with tuition assistance, from $50 million to $200 million.
His efforts paid immediate dividends. Coming out of the pandemic, Illinois is landing coveted corporate expansion deals. For example, on July 14, Amsino Medical Group announced the grand opening of a $32 million North American distribution and manufacturing hub in Aurora. The project creates 110 new permanent jobs in Illinois. The 222,000-sq.-ft. facility will house all production and distribution of medical devices and products for the company.
“Amsino Medical Group is thrilled to expand our presence in Illinois as we work to fulfill a growing need for medical device and supply orders seen throughout the pandemic,” said Amsino Medical Group CEO Richard Lee. “Illinois has always been an important component of our manufacturing pipeline, and we are thrilled to expand here and to make the state the site of our new NA operations hub. Thanks to the support we received from the state, we are able to tap into local resources and talent that will help us grow and scale quickly to meet the demands our customers across the country face today.”
Amsino’s investment is supported with an EDGE agreement provided by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO). DCEO will partner with the company and the Worknet DuPage Career Center to leverage virtual jobs fairs, workforce development training dollars, and strategies to help find talent for new roles, which include management, technicians, quality control, machine and warehouse operators. Hiring has already started, creating over 30 new jobs toward the 110 full-time, permanent roles announced at Aurora and Vernon Hills.
Amsino is not alone. On June 30, Ferrara celebrated the opening of a $100 million, 1.6-million-sq.-ft. facility in the City of DeKalb. The projects brings 500 jobs with it in the food distribution area. The expansion brings to 20 the number of facilities that Ferrara operates across North America, as the firm now employs over 6,000 workers. Most of them are based in Illinois.
“We are exceptionally proud of what the addition of this distribution complex to our operational network means for our business, the City of DeKalb, and ultimately the future of manufacturing in Illinois,” said Todd Siwak, CEO of Ferrara. “We set out to find a site and to build a space that would further our leadership position in the industry. DeKalb provided us that – and more. The utility infrastructure, trained workforce and central location will allow us to drive scale and realize our ambitious growth agenda. DeKalb will be home to state-of-the-art equipment and world class team that will ensure we share delight through our beloved products with consumers across the country and, in time, the globe.”
Ferrara has already filled more than half of the 500 jobs the distribution complex estimated it would bring to the area and continues to hire in DeKalb and other places across the state. Ferrara worked with the DeKalb County Economic Development Corp., city administration and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to secure state incentives through the IDOT Economic Development Program, in addition to locating in the DeKalb County Enterprise Zone.
Success stories like these are a big reason why Illinois, if it were a country, would be the 18th largest economy in the world. It is home to the global headquarters of 38 Fortune 500 companies and more than 170,000 new business startups each year.
Ron Starner is Executive Vice President of Conway Data, Inc. He has been with Conway Data for 22 years and serves as a writer and editor for both Site Selection and the company's Custom Content publishing division. His Twitter handle is @RonStarner.