From Illinois Investment Guide 2023

Need a Site? Illinois Has Cash

Gov. Pritzker unveils $40 million grant program to develop megasites.

CNI Corp. has engineered a complete turnaround of Pullman Park.
Photo Courtesy of CNI Corp.


NI Corp. President David Doig remembers when Pullman Park was little more than a 180-acre brownfield in suburban Chicago. Today, the park stands as a monument to economic revitalization.

“CNI’s Pullman Park Development went from a 180-acre brownfield to a new, green manufacturing and distribution hub,” CNI Corp. President David Doig said recently. “This area is now a model for economic development — creating more than 2,000 jobs — and it all began with a $10 million grant from the state.”

The state grant funded site cleanup and upgrades that ultimately paved the way for Method Soap Manufacturing, Amazon, Whole Foods and Gotham Greens to build and open plants in the industrial park that is part of the rebirth of the historic Pullman community.

Pullman’s rich history dates to its founding in the late 1800s. Built by railcar magnate George M. Pullman, the community once was described by the Times of London as “the most perfect town in the world.”

As happens with most towns, this one eventually fell on hard times, but no one is lamenting that chapter now as CNI (Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives) spearheads a redevelopment effort that is restoring the luster to place that gave birth to the Illinois labor movement.

Front and center is Pullman Park, where CNI is engineering a remarkable turnaround. Amazon recently opened a 150,000-sq.-ft. fulfillment center in the park and brought 200 to 300 new jobs with it. Method, which opened a LEED-certified soap factory in the park in 2014, expanded to an additional 400,000-sq.-ft. warehouse on site in 2020. Gotham Greens in 2019 opened a second greenhouse, a 100,000-sq.-ft. facility that doubles the firm’s production workforce in the park; and Whole Foods brought a 140,000-sq.-ft. distribution center and 100 jobs to the park in 2018.

Spurring Business Attraction

None of that would have been possible without the seed money from the state to create a site suitable for modern industrial development.

Earlier this year, Gov. JB Pritzker announced a plan to double down on those investments as he unveiled a new $40 million grant opportunity to develop megasites. Appropriately, he chose Pullman as the place to deliver the news.

“Major job creators are consistently looking for investment-ready sites they can get up and running in a short amount of time,” Pritzker said. “The new Megasites Investment Program grants will help communities innovate their own business attraction efforts and will spur economic development in communities across our great state.”

The $40 million in Rebuild Illinois Capital Funds will be designated to prepare and equip large, developed sites ready for occupancy for manufacturers, distribution centers, industrial centers and more. The competitive grant program is open to governments, private businesses or non-profits to support site development. The goal is to attract large-scale industrial investments in under-utilized areas and former industrial sites.

Megasites Investment Program funding is issued through a competitive Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) and is open to the various groups mentioned above. Grants range from $250,000 to $5 million. Eligible sites must contain at least 200 contiguous acres. Applicants must either own or have an agreement in place to acquire the property when they apply. The grant also requires a dollar-to-dollar capital investment match.

Underserved areas and Opportunity Zones are given priority. This allows the developed sites to market additional incentives to potential business prospects.


Gotham Greens in Pullman Park.

Photo courtesy of CNI Corp.

Funding can be used to pay for roads, electric power, water, broadband and other infrastructure. Dollars can cover costs such as grading, drainage, rehabbing, remediation, cleanup and other site development work. Land acquisition and related expenses also qualify.

“Megasites are akin to a turnkey house: move-in ready with zero hassle, which is exactly what fast-growing businesses are looking for.”

— Kristin Richards, Director, DCEO

“Megasites are a major draw for companies looking to locate or expand in Illinois, and given our superior infrastructure and workforce, there are boundless investment opportunities throughout the state,” said Kristin Richards, director of the Illinois Department of Economic and Community Opportunity. “Megasites are akin to a turnkey house: move-in ready with zero hassle, which is exactly what fast-growing businesses are looking for.”

Your Vetted Site Is Ready

Another program aimed at helping the state compete for some of the biggest economic development projects is Intersect Illinois’ Vetted Sites program.

The program focuses on large sites (more than 400 acres with qualifying assets) and megasites (more than 1,000 acres). Intersect Illinois evaluates those sites based on attributes such as utilities, workforce, ownership, environmental and topographic data, logistics and distribution capabilities, local and state incentives, permitting and entitlement, and more. 

The program provides the needed site and infrastructure data for fast-moving projects so companies can make location decisions quickly and accurately. Two of the pilot sites being marketed through the program are the 534-acre Clarius Five Star tract in Morris in Grundy County and the 3,300-acre Marquis Industrial Complex in Hennepin in Putnam County.

Clarius is within the Chicago metro area and has CSX railway access. Marquis is two hours from Chicago and has a Norfolk Southern rail spur. For more information on these and other sites visit 

Ron Starner
Executive Vice President of Conway, Inc.

Ron Starner

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.


Site Selection online is a worldwide service of Conway Data, Inc. ©1983-2024, all rights reserved. Data is from many sources and not warranted to be accurate or current. To unsubscribe from our print magazine, contact Julie Clarke. For general inquiries, visit our contact page. For technical inquiries contact the Webmaster.