DeKalb County Economic Development Corp. names new executive director

Mark Williams was named executive director of the DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation, according to a July 28, 2023 announcement from the agency.

The DeKalb County Economic Development Corp. has named Mark Williams as its new executive director.

Williams currently is the executive director of the business group called the Greater Freeport Partnership, and plans to move to DeKalb County to start his role effective Sept. 18, according to a news release from the economic development agency. Williams was appointed following the retirement of longtime DCEDC leader Paul Borek.

“We are pleased to announce that Mark Williams, an accomplished northern Illinois economic development executive, has accepted the position,” DCEDC Board President Mike Kokott said in a news release. “He has held a number of key positions in the region which gives him substantial knowledge of the area.”

In a statement, Williams said he’s excited about the opportunity. The appointment came after a nationwide search, Kokott said.

“I’m honored for the opportunity to lead DCEDC at a time when it is one of the most highly regarded and thriving corporate investment counties in the state. I look forward to adding value to the excellent work that Paul Borek, the staff and the DCEDC Board have achieved,” Williams said in the release.

In Freeport, Williams lead a team focused on advancing business development, workforce development, tourism, downtown development, and community engagement in Stephenson County, according to the release.

Under Williams’ leadership, the group worked to advocate for contracts between the city of Freeport and Stephenson County to develop shovel-ready sites for investors and businesses. According to the news release, the Northwest Illinois Enterprise Zone attracted more than $201 million in investment, with 633 jobs since 2020 including notable projects cheesemakers Nuestro Queso, High Point Solar and The Meadows retail center in Freeport.

An enterprise zone is an economic tool often used by economic development corporations and municipalities to entice businesses to the area through tax incentives and other economic advocacy work.

Williams also has worked as economic development manager for the city of Rockford and helped develop projects in the city’s 32 tax increment finance (TIF) districts, two enterprise zones and the River Edge Redevelopment Zone in Rockford. In his Rockford role, Williams oversaw 191 projects which generated $1.3 billion in private investment and 6,145 jobs, according to the release.

Williams also worked with Belvidere and Boone County economic group Growth Dimensions, according to the news release. Highlights include his work helping to retain the Chrysler Group in 2011 to expand the Belvidere Assembly Plant, a $700 million investment which created 1,800 new jobs. His work helped oversee the development of six new Chrysler suppliers, according to the release, which created another 1,500 jobs.

The Belvidere Assembly Plant closed in the spring.

Williams also has worked with Northern Illinois University, helping to establish in Belvidere the Northern Illinois Regional Economic Development District and the Northern Illinois Commuter Rail Initiative, according to the release.

Earlier this month, Gov. JB Pritzker announced a Metra commuter train expansion into Rockford, with stops planned in Belvidere and Huntley.

Williams serves in board leadership roles with two statewide organizations, the Illinois Economic Development Association and the Illinois Enterprise Zone Association. He was awarded the Illinois Development Council’s Distinguished Economic Developer of the Year Award in 2012.

Williams is a graduate of Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.

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