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BOREK: Illinois a global leader in innovation

Mark Peterson proclaimed a “new day for economic development in Illinois” while visiting DeKalb County, recently. Intersect Illinois’ president and CEO said the most innovative location in the world for food production is Illinois.

These and other facts about Illinois will be boldly promoted by the state’s private sector economic development organization. “We will no longer allow our neighboring states to define Illinois,” said Peterson at the DeKalb County Economic Development Corp. Business Roundtable on Feb. 22 at Fatty’s Pub & Grille.

Before Intersect was created, Peterson observed, the state had all the ingredients of successful economic development; however, Illinois needed a statewide marketing organization to put the pieces together and pitch the message to businesses and site selectors.

Intersect Illinois is a privately funded organization established to work in partnership with local communities and businesses to provide a unified, apolitical approach to business recruitment. Intersect is governed by an 18-member board consisting of the top CEOs in the state and country.

The private organization is designed to provide stability during political transition. This is essential as some business development projects evolve over four to five years or more.

Intersect can do things that even the best local EDOs can’t do. For example, if DCEDC wishes to meet with a national out-of-state site selection consultant, it is likely that the consultant cannot allocate the time to meet with one county from Illinois. However, Intersect can organize a meeting with the governor and several Illinois EDOs and command the attention of the site consultant.

In this manner, Intersect works for all local Illinois communities, EDOs, utilities, rail partners and other partners. Intersect’s initiatives afford all Illinois partners a national presence by meeting with thought leaders and decision makers to pitch Illinois regions and communities.

To respond in a timely manner to site selectors, Intersect has invested $180,000 in research software. These resources are available to assist local organizations with similar research needs. Intersect will launch a new interactive website in April. The website will have open source resources available to site selectors, businesses and local communities. Included will be information on all major development sites in the nation and detailed labor market data.

To understand and distinguish the state’s strengths, Peterson researched Illinois patents in all industries. He found that Illinois was the top state in new food processing patents. Illinois had more food patents than any other state ... for the past 10 years. Even more notable, Illinois had more food patents than any country in the world.

Over the past few months, Peterson has assembled a team of business development professionals and charged them to build relationships with the business community, EDOs and national site consultants.

These efforts are paying off. During 2017, Illinois logged $3.8 billion in investment and 50,000 jobs from 432 projects, ranking third in the U.S. behind only Texas and Ohio. This may be good for now, Peterson noted, but Illinois can double these numbers, as it did 10 years ago when 835 projects were recorded.

Despite what our neighboring states would have you believe, Illinois is the leading economy in the Midwest by a significant margin. The state will soon “reassert itself as rightful leader of the Midwest.” Illinois is about to announce several new projects secured at the expense of other Midwest states, Peterson stated.

Peterson closed by encouraging all of us to be ambassadors for our state home, Illinois. We need to defend Illinois, because the Illinois economy is great and the state will succeed. We all need to communicate this message.

DeKalb County is well positioned to help Intersect Illinois with this message. From barbed wire to broadband, DeKalb County is innovation, including:

• Hybrid seed development by Monsanto (formerly DeKalb AG);

• Wireless energy management and the Ideal/NIU Intrapreneurship Program by Ideal Industries;

• Development of 250 new products each year by Auto Meter racing gauges;

• Aerospace structural composites by J6 Polymers;

• Dairy ingredients and flavorings by Tate & Lyle Custom Ingredients;

• Innovative shelf-stable food products by The Suter Company;

• Packaging machine development by Sonoco/Alloyd and Algus; and

• Over 200 business and industry partnerships with NIU’s College of Engineering and Engineering Technology.

These and other innovative, entrepreneurial businesses and partnerships prosper in DeKalb County. We applaud the initiatives of Intersect Illinois and we look forward to working together to attract international and domestic business investment.

• Paul Borek is executive director of the DeKalb County Economic Development Corp.

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