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DeKalb County history book highlights industry

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
(Chris Burrows – cburrows@shawmedia.com)
Bob Boey, of DeKalb, shares stories about the Anaconda Cable and Wire Co. at the DeKalb County Economic Development Corp.'s business roundtable Tuesday on the site of the former company's Sycamore location. Boey was an engineering manager of the company in its heyday.

SYCAMORE – Bob Boey didn’t grow up in DeKalb County, but he has become well known here in the past 32 years as a business and community leader.

“Many friends have asked me, ‘What’s a guy who grew up in Hong Kong ... doing in Sycamore and DeKalb?’ ” he said.

In fact, the county’s booming industrial sector prompted Boey to uproot his family from New York City and come to Sycamore, where he helped set up Anaconda Cable and Wire’s engineering headquarters across from its 650,000-square-foot manufacturing facility.

Much has changed since then.

The DeKalb County Economic Development Corp. focused on changes within the county’ s industrial landscape at a roundtable presentation Tuesday at the former Anaconda Cable and Wire location at 449 N. California St. in Sycamore. DCEDC’s leaders wrote and researched a chapter on the topic for the upcoming local history book “Acres of Change.”

“Acres of Change” is a 50-year sequel to a history book titled “From Oxen to Jets” which was published in 1963,” said Jerry Smith, a former DCEDC president and book contributor.

“The DeKalb County Historical and Genealogical Society thought that it was appropriate to do a 50-year update of that history,” he said.

In the 1970s, manufacturing jobs made up 22 percent of the county’s workforce, compared with just 10 percent today, according to the presentation. Even so, the county has seen economic growth as industrial and commercial priorities have shifted.

“The [DeKalb County] economy has expanded significantly over the last 25 years, outpacing residential development,” DCEDC President Paul Borek said. “That’s what you want to see to expand and diversify the economy and attract commercial and industrial development and jobs for our residents.”

In the works since 2010, “Acres of Change” brought together 18 community members to write on topics from education and religion to government and service organizations and how they’ve changed over the past half century. The book is slated to hit shelves in November.

“It has been an exciting project to research and write, and a long process,” Smith said. “Folks will find this book ... will be very colorful, very insightful and certainly full of history – pictures, personality profiles, facts and figures.”

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