DeKALB – City leaders say the announcement that Chicago-based Ferrara Candy Company is investing $100 million into the city of DeKalb will change the economic climate of the region.
The candy company on Friday announced they've committed to building a 1.6 million-square-foot distribution facility at the ChicagoWest Business Center on DeKalb's south side after months of will-they-won't-they speculation. Now a commitment has been made, and with it 1,000 temporary construction jobs and 1,000 Ferrara employees are expected to be a part of the build-out once completed. By the second quarter of 2021, the facility will have employed 500 people, according to a news release, with an additional 500 expected as multiple phases of the complex are completed.
"We want people who work at Ferrara to strongly consider living in this city," said Mayor Jerry Smith. "So we're going to work very hard on that. I'm also excited about the fact that if you believe that dominoes do fall, one to the other, I believe this announcement today will be a catalyst for even further economic development."
Timeline for construction, jobs
Construction has already begun on the site, said City Manager Bill Nicklas.
"They started the foundation and footings earlier this month," Nicklas said. "And even in this lousy weather, they've got nearly all the foundation wall in and are operating now. Laborers are out there, machine operators, the like."
Countywide municipalities, including City of DeKalb staff, have for months appealed to the companies by offering property tax abatements, financial assistance in looping water main, grants from the Illinois Department of Transportation for roadway improvements and incentives from the DeKalb County Enterprise Zone.
Thanks to an intergovernmental agreement Ferrara will receive 50% of their property taxes abated over the next 15 years.
Sarah Kittel, head of corporate affairs with Ferrara, said the hiring timeline is subject to the timeline for the build. According to the incentive agreement, they'll have two years to reach 1,000 jobs, and if they drop below 80% of that, they’ll have to give back a prorated share of the tax abatements. If they fall below 50%, the abatement will be suspended.
Paul Borek, executive director of the DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation, headed up Enterprise Zone efforts and said the impact of Ferrara's investment in DeKalb isn't just in property tax revenue.
"The significant investment, job creation and generation of new tax revenue will constitute a significant expansion of DeKalb County's overall economy," Borek said. "And these resources can be invested in strengthening and improving our communities."
State Representative Jeff Keicher, R-Sycamore, said Ferrara's deal is even sweeter because they're a home-grown company, located in the Chicago area. Keicher teamed up with State Representative Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, to appeal for state funding for a portion of road improvements needed on Gurler Road between Peace Road and Route 23 to address what's expected to be significant daily truck traffic in and out of the site.
"Today's a fantastic day," Keicher said. "The fact that we will have iconic brands being made and sold in our own backyard is transformational."
Demmer echoed his remarks.
"I think this is one of the best aspects of the Illinois economy," he said. "That we have both this large urban center like Chicago that tends to attract some of the large corporate headquarters but also just an hour away we've got land open for development."