Daily Chronicle

Williams: Celebrating DeKalb County’s wins, planning for succession in 2024

Celebrating our success, planning for succession and taking on new ventures is my message today.

In 2023, more than $500 million was invested in the development of more than 1.3 million square feet of space in DeKalb County.

This was the third-highest investment level in the 36-year history of the DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation.

These projects that spanned all of DeKalb County included: expansion of the ChicagoWest Business Center; improvements to ComEd Pleasant Street, Substation; acquisition of former Greenlee Building by Custom Aluminum Products; expansion of DeKalb Forge on Pleasant Street; annexation of 130 acres at Peace Road Interchange by the Golding Family; remodeling of Hampton Inn on Peace Road; construction of state-of-the-art Automated Distribution Center by Kraft Heinz; expansion of Service Concepts HVAC by Malcour Developments in Genoa; ongoing construction of building No’s 3, 4 and 5 by Meta; expansion/relocation of Midwest Tent & Awning to 2239 Sycamore Road; expansion of Nehring Electric Works on East Locust Street; acquisition of Pleasant Street former GE complex by Phoenix Investors & leasing of 68,000 SF to CST Electric; buildout of additional office space by The Suter Company in Sycamore; Old Mill Park by Grainger construction of 55 year+ housing development in Sycamore.

What the DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation has achieved as an organization is not only aspirational for those in the economic development profession but it’s also a testament to the fact that success or the “win” in economic development is a marathon race with a commitment to building long-term relationships with developers, brokers, site selectors, utility providers and government partners.

The “wins” are now being realized by our residents, homeowners and business owners, not just with good employment opportunities but with some property tax rates now trending in a downward direction because of the massive private investments in new construction underway. New construction falls primarily in the ChicagoWest Business Center mega sites and has impacted government units’ commitment to local property tax reduction because of this growth.

In 2023, the DCEDC’s long-term executive director, Paul Borek, retired at the end of October at which time I was fortunate enough to be hired and named Paul’s successor as executive director. As with most organizations, succession and transition in leadership can be messy and I am thankful for the smooth transition that our leadership, Paul, and staff set out for me.

Speaking of succession and transition and looking forward to 2024, how are we prepared and how will we be impacted by the “silver tsunami” of retiring business owners without business succession/transition plans in place?

It’s been documented that more than two-thirds of small business owners plan to retire in the next two years and only a third of those have a transition plan in place.

I’ve had partners/members meet with me this past quarter to speak on this very concern, and I invite our strategic partners, including our chambers, business associations throughout DeKalb County, members, financial institutions, accountants, attorneys to meet and collaborate on this very topic.

Business transition can be important throughout DeKalb County including in our most rural communities. Business transitions provide opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs that look to own a small family-owned business venture.

In closing, I had a close friend wishing me all the best in my new venture in 2024. My friend is a very successful entrepreneur. The definition of “venture” is an undertaking involving chance, risk. Personally, I see it as stretching yourself to new boundaries. Thus, changing your perspective on things, often unnoticed by yourself.

DeKalb County has had many entrepreneurs who have taken risks and grown global business ventures. Some businesses that have recently made DeKalb County a home, including Meta (Facebook’s parent company), Kraft Heinz, Amazon and Ferrara Candy Co. were all started by risk-taking entrepreneurs.

I wish you all the best in life, family, health and your new venture in 2024!

  • Mark Williams is the executive director of the DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation.