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Recent development growth in DeKalb County far outpaces previous decades, says agency

DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation celebrates 35 years, highlights economic trends since 2020

Paul Borek, Executive Director and Enterprise Zone Administrator for the DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation, smiles Thursday, April 28, 2022, at Faranda's Banquet Center in DeKalb as he gives an update on the development growth in the county over the past year. Borek was speaking during the annual DCEDC dinner and state of the county event.

DeKALB - DeKalb County area leaders heralded job growth and economic development Thursday and said growth since 2020 far outpaces trends dating back decades in DeKalb.

It’s been 35 years since the DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation was established in the area, and Thursday it celebrated that and recent business progress that promises to bring billions of dollars in local investment.

The agency celebrated its anniversary during an annual dinner celebration at Faranda’s Banquet Center in DeKalb. The event’s keynote speaker and agency officials heralded its mission to help establish business and development growth in the area, detailing recent projects announced including an expansion by Facebook’s parent company, Meta.

On Wednesday, the company announced plans to expand its DeKalb Data Center from two to five buildings, bringing with it more than 1,200 construction jobs and 200 operational jobs once completed in 2023. It’s an investment worth more than $1 billion in the community.

It’s part of a trend of global and local businesses that have put down roots in the area since 2020, including the 468,000-square-foot Ferrara Candy Company distribution and packing center, which employs more than 500 people, officials said. In the fall of 2021, online retail giant Amazon paid $6.3 million to buy 59 acres of land in DeKalb, according to property records.

Paul Borek, executive director of the DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation, said over the past few years alone, investment and job growth accounts for about 50% of what’s been documented over the past three decades.

“In other words, the present four-year period, 2020 to 2023, industrial development in DeKalb County could match or exceed all that occurred in last 33 years,” Borek said.

From its inception in 1987 to 2022, the agency helped bring 15,700 jobs to the area, Borek said, and more than $2 billion worth of economic investment. Business development dollars can often include the creation of local jobs, including during construction phases, property tax revenue and community programming, among others.

Borek said the trends for development projects in the DeKalb area show another $2 billion is expected to be invested in the area through 2023.

Borek said he believes the success is due, in part, to the agency’s efforts to rebrand the county, through an initiative called Opportunity Unbound. It’s part of a countywide effort to attract workers, young people and families to the area.

“As a result of this remarkable activity, spurred by the Opportunity Unbound promotions development, prospects handled by DCEDC increased from an average of 34 per year to a total of 81 last year,” Borek said.

Nicole Martin, chief empowerment officer and founder of HRBoost, LLC, a shared services consulting firm based in the north suburbs of Chicago, was the event’s keynote speaker Thursday. During her address, she spoke about the importance of leadership and teamwork for growth, especially in workplaces where generations collaborate.

“Shared leadership is that everyone is a leader, every single one of us,” she said. “Everyone in a business, the person that starts day one, the person that has worked there five years, the person that has been there 30. They are all leaders. That is the new philosophy.”

Keynote speaker Nicole Martin, Chief Empowerment Officer and Founder of HRBoost, LLC, talks Thursday, April 28, 2022, during the annual DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation dinner and state of the county event at Faranda's Banquet Center in DeKalb.

Echoing Martin’s sentiments, Borek commended county-wide leaders for their roles in DeKalb’s economic life for the past three and a half decades.

“While DCEDC is the cheerleader and facilitator involved in the initial recruitment and support of these projects, DCEDC members, including the county, municipalities, investors, developers, companies and utilities, you are all the real heroes behind these projects,” Borek said. “We commend all these DCEDC directors and members that build these projects and operate these business each and everyday.”