DeKALB – The city is in the running to land both a large food manufacturing company as well as a tech-based international employer, developments that could create more than 1,200 jobs, City Manager Bill Nicklas said.
In a presentation to the DeKalb Park District’s Board of Commissioners on Thursday, Nicklas described the two companies as a significantly-sized international food manufacturer that could bring more than 1,000 jobs, and a knowledge-based company that would hire 100 to 200. The employers are eyeing space in the 1,000-acre ChicagoWest Business Center, south of Interstate 88 along Gurler Road and Route 23.
“This would all be very, very high-end jobs, special multi-degree engineers and such,” Nicklas said of the latter company. “It would be one of a kind, the kind of business that would, I don’t think it’s too much to say, be transformative. Barbed wire made us in the 19th century, and this is the kind of high-tech thing we’ve been talking about for 20 years.”
In a different presentation Tuesday on the Enterprise Zone program, Paul Borek, executive director of the DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation, said “knowledge-based” could mean a data center, biotech company, electronic, professional services and any technology company that typically requires a significantly skilled and certified labor-force.
Nicklas said the city has been talking with the two companies on possible tax incentives, which spurred his visits to taxing bodies to discuss tax abatement.
DeKalb is in competition with a city in Wisconsin for the food manufacturing site, Nicklas said.
He said the company also is looking to consolidate some other locations in Illinois and could set up a food distribution center.
“The holding company that controls this particular operation is international,” Nicklas said. “And if it comes to pass, you will recognize the name. They’re particularly interested in our area for a number of reasons: power is one, with two very large ComEd transmission lines, and they need a lot of power for the type of manufacturing they do.
“They like the location; they can jump on the tollway.”
The tech company also is international, Nicklas said, and on a slower timeline than the food manufacturer, he said, although city staff met with the company’s engineers Thursday in Chicago to continue discussion.
“We’re one of two Illinois communities that are of interest to them,” Nicklas said. “They are very pleased that there’s a major state university in our community that would help with the training and advanced education of employees they would hire.”
Nicklas said he could not elaborate on or name the prospective companies.
Echoing his Tuesday pitch to the DeKalb County Board’s Economic Development Committee, Nicklas presented the latest information Thursday to the park board in anticipation of what could be an intergovernmental agreement between the city and the district. He said he plans to make overtures to the remaining taxing bodies, too.
The five companies in the Park 88 industrial business park on DeKalb’s south side – the Target distribution center, 3M, Nestle, Panduit and Goodyear – are estimated to generate $107 million in property tax revenue over a
20-year period, Nicklas said. The two companies eyeing DeKalb would rival that amount individually, Nicklas said, calling the deal “a big fish.”
Chicago area-based developer Krusinksi Construction Co., which owns the ChicagoWest land, began site development in the beginning of September, which includes mass grading (ground work to remove slopes or hills to better prepare for buildings).
Jerry Krusinski, CEO of the construction company, made an appeal to the City Council on Sept. 24 regarding DeKalb’s reputation in the media, and he said he hoped the two employers would see the city in a positive light.
The park board did not vote on any item, although expect to discuss the intergovernmental agreement in more detail at their second meeting in October.
Commissioner Dean Holliday thanked Nicklas for the development presentation, and said it was “fantastic.”
DeKalb lost a 2017 bid for a $1.6 billion Toyota-Mazda plant, but Nicklas said the city has moved on.
“We’re confident that we’ve learned from that experience,” he said. “And we’re bringing that knowledge to bear in the present.”