From Site Selection magazine, March 2007
Eye on Innovation
BIR is working with L- 3 Communications on a contract valued at up to $450 million. CAARS requirements include the automatic detection of heavily shielded nuclear material that is perceived to be the biggest threat to the U.S. Two other companies also have prototype contracts, and the three are expected to share 2008 production contracts that will eventually total more than $1.3 billion.
"That's a big piece of what we expect for our future business," says Bio- Imaging Research's chairman, president and CEO John Moore. "Right now we are building that prototype with production scheduled for 2008." Moore adds that his company is evaluating several sites in Illinois for a possible testing facility.
Bio- Imaging is one of many Illinois companies specializing in security- related R&D to receive a state Innovative Product Grant. Another is Advanced Diamond Technologies (ADT), a spin- off from Argonne National Laboratory. ADT, headquartered in Champaign with facilities at Argonne, is developing a form of ultrananocrystalline diamond, known as UNCD, as a platform material for biomedical, telecommunication and energy- related applications. The $140,000 IPG grant allows ADT to create 10 new jobs and begin mass production and commercialization of nanoprobes made from UNCD for biomolecular imaging and biomanufacturing of sensors to detect weaponized pathogens such as anthrax.
Jack Lavin, director of the Illinois Dept. of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, says homeland security is one of the technology sectors targeted by the state. Illinois is providing grants of up to $150,000 to companies, and is working with universities and community colleges to develop security curricula.
A cluster of companies in the homeland security business is developing in the Northeast part of Illinois, Lavin says. The state's role as a strong transportation center is driving much of the growth,
One of the most active sectors in the state is energy. Projects are percolating on many fronts, including a major announcement by BP that the University of Illinois, Urbana- Champaign will be one of the partners in a $500- million research program that will explore how bioscience can be used to increase energy production and reduce the impact of energy consumption on the environment. The University of California Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are the other partners in the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI).
Energy Industry On Front Burner
As part of the EBI, 340 acres (138 hectares) of farmland at the Urbana campus will be devoted to the study and production of feedstock for biofuels production. Researchers will explore the potential of using corn crop residues, switchgrass, miscanthus (a hybrid grass than can grow as tall as 13 ft. [4 m.]), and other plants as fuel sources.
"This will place us at the forefront of farm bioenergy production," says Stephen P. Long, a crop sciences professor who will lead the initiative at the University of Illinois.
Not all of the wind in Illinois is in Chicago. One of the world's largest wind farms is taking shape in McLean County, in the state's center. Horizon Wind Energy is building a 198- megawatt wind project, the first phase of a planned 400- megawatt wind farm, which when complete will be one of the largest land- based wind farms in the world and will employ up to 40. Horizon plans to spend $700 million on the project, which it expects to complete by the end of 2007. The facility will produce enough energy with its 240 wind turbines to meet the annual needs of about 120,000 homes.
Wind turbines need towers to support them, and that's the business of Trinity Structural Towers,
"We already had an idle railcar facility in Clinton that we had not used in a few years," says James Perry, vice president and treasurer of Trinity Structural Towers and of Trinity Industries. "While the modifications are substantial to convert it to wind tower manufacturing, we felt it made sense to use an existing facility, and that's what we've done in other areas as well."
Perry says the facility, which will serve the Midwest market, will be operational by mid- 2007. The wind tower business is strong and has grown rapidly, he says, and will likely continue in that direction with the extension of federal tax credits through the end of 2008.
Biofuel development is also burgeoning in the state with several projects afoot. Biofuels Company of America will produce 45 million gallons of biodiesel at a facility it is building in Danville adjacent to an existing soybean crushing plant. The project is a joint venture between Biofuels Company of America and Bunge North America, which owns the soybean processing plant and will supply the oil.
The energy sector expansion comes as the state moves forward with Gov. Rod Blagojevich's energy independence plan that includes initiatives to boost ethanol production and invest in clean coal technology. The plan includes incentives to build up to 20 new ethanol plants and five new biodiesel plants.
Pabst Brewing Co. joined the crew of Chicago headquarters in 2006.
Chicagoland Collects More Headquarters
Miller actually does the brewing of Pabst Blue Ribbon and the company's other brands, a move made after Pabst moved its headquarters from its longtime Milwaukee home to San Antonio in 1996. Pabst's new headquarters is in the Chicago suburb of Woodridge, home to most of the company's executives. The state gave Pabst nearly $1 million in an Opportunity Returns grant for the move.
Today, all of Pabst's current 37 active brands are brewed by other companies. The new Chicago headquarters is home to about 40 executives handling marketing, sales, HR and accounting. The company will maintain customer service operations in San Antonio, says Pabst President and CEO Kevin Kotecki. Pabst selected Chicago after also considering Minneapolis, Denver and Milwaukee.
"Chicago has a very broad and deep labor pool and we have great access to talent here, which is an important factor for us," Kotecki says. "Chicago is one of the easiest cities to travel in and out of with its two airports. We're 15 minutes from Midway and 25 minutes from O'Hare."
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