International food company eyeing ChicagoWest dubbed 'Project Hammer,' seeks tax incentives

Company seeks 15-year tax abatement program in ‘Project Hammer’

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DeKALB – The city is one step closer to solidifying a deal that it now is referring to as Project Hammer, a plan to welcome an international food distributor and manufacturer to the area, which could bring 1,000 jobs.

City Manager Bill Nicklas needs eight taxing bodies to agree to tax incentives to seal the deal.

At Thursday’s DeKalb Park District Board meeting, Nicklas presented an intergovernmental agreement which would require the city of DeKalb, the DeKalb Park District, the DeKalb County Board, DeKalb School District 428, the DeKalb Library District, DeKalb Township, Kishwaukee College District 523 and the Kishwaukee Water Reclamation District to agree to abate 50% of their property taxes for the site for 15 years.

He also estimates that the company alone could bring in $69 million in property taxes to be split among the entities in the first 15 years.

That’s close to the $78 million expected to be brought in from the property taxes of five companies combined: Target distribution center, 3M, Panduit, Goodyear and Nestle in that same 15-year period, Nicklas said.

“If every taxing body doesn’t buy into this, it doesn’t happen,” Nicklas said, telling the park board that city staff needs to rack up votes of approval from the remaining seven taxing bodies by the end of the month.

The City Council has in the past issued strong support for the ChicagoWest project, and Nicklas said Thursday he believes they're ready to support the intergovernmental agreement.

“It’s a Fortune 500 company, well known,” Nicklas said, keeping with the city’s months-long contractual agreement not to release the name of the company until a contract is signed. DeKalb is in competition with another city in Wisconsin for the bid, which Nicklas said previously went by code names “Project Donkey” and “Project Huskie.”

The DeKalb City Council on Oct. 28 approved a 1.2 million-square-foot distribution facility owned by the food company, one of two companies looking at space in the ChicagoWest Business Center near Interstate 88.

The food distributor hopes to set up a facility that would have 1,000 jobs
by 2020 at the 343-acre site between Route 23 and Gurler Road, with an additional 466,000-square-foot food packaging center, which would be Phase 2 of the project.

If approved and if DeKalb wins the bid from the company, construction would have to begin on the site by June 30, 2020, according to the agreement.

The park board will vote on the measure at its regular meeting
Dec. 19, and Nicklas will make his rounds at the other taxing bodies before the end of December.