Borek: Enterprise Zone a game changer for DeKalb County

The DeKalb County Enterprise Zone has helped generate $1.1 billion of investment in 44 projects totaling 3.5 million square feet of development since its inception in 2016.

When the DeKalb County’s Enterprise Zone application was prepared, it was projected that $217 million of investment in 34 projects totaling 2.1 million square feet of development could be anticipated for the first three years of operation.

Capital investment exceeded projections fivefold. In addition, over 1,300 permanent full-time jobs are in place or projected from these developments.

These developments included 20 manufacturing and industrial companies, 15 commercial and mixed use projects, four research and development, technology and agriculture projects, three contractors and two professional service firms. The majority of Enterprise Zone projects – 33 – were expansions of existing DeKalb County businesses.

These developments were located in all Enterprise Zone communities throughout DeKalb County. In Cortland, DC Trash built a new building for recycling and waste hauling. Natural Polymers remodeled a building for the development and production of sustainable insulation.

In DeKalb, Facebook is building a 907,000-square-foot data center on a 500-acre campus at a cost of $800 million. Wehrli Custom Fabrication is building a 100,000-square-foot high performance diesel and custom metal manufacturing facility. Pappas Development is building the Agora Tower mixed use development and has completed the Cornerstone DeKalb, Plaza DeKalb and Isaac Executive Suites projects.

Ferrara Candy Co. has completed a 1,222,400-square-foot distribution center and a 468,000-square-foot packaging center in the ChicagoWest Business Center. Home2 Suites completed an 89-suite hotel. Other DeKalb Enterprise Zone projects include Brian Bemis Toyota, SundogIT, SparrowHawk/Solotech, Nestle and School Toolbox.

In Genoa, Custom Aluminum Products expanded its manufacturing plant, and the International Bureau of Electrical Workers constructed a utility lineman training center. Malcour Development completed a new industrial building housing Service Concepts HVAC, Open Door Café developed a coffee shop and Minify built the Genoa Self Storage facility.

Syngenta has begun construction of a Seeds R&D, Innovation & Customer Experience Center in Malta. The development will include office, labs, auditorium, visitors center, greenhouses and warehouse projected to employ 80 research professionals hosting extensive engagement with regional growers.

In Sandwich, Meadowvale completed extensive renovations to a 91,500-square-foot manufacturing complex to manufacture premium dairy mixes. Gord Industrial Plastics rebuilt its injection and compression molding plant destroyed by fire.

MLC bult a new building for Midwestern Concrete and C Skye Enterprises completed one for Sopris Concrete. G & L Washes remodeled operations as did Angie’s Sugar Buzz Bakery.

In Sycamore, Meijer constructed a new 159,000-square-foot superstore employing 150. The Suter Co. completed a major expansion of its shelf stable and prepared food manufacturing facility followed by the addition of new headquarters offices.

The Illinois Community Credit Union constructed a new main branch building, Seymour of Sycamore constructed a new aerosol paints warehouse, and MorningStar Media Group remodeled a downtown building to expand its full-service marketing business and house Coroco Coffee Roasters. Advanced Family Eye Care renovated office space, Carriage House remodeled commercial apartments and Gateway Storage constructed a mini storage center.

In Waterman, Conserve FS has begun construction of a major expansion of its AG products manufacturing, sales and services center.

The Enterprise Zone has increased the visibility and competitiveness of DeKalb County in attracting new prospects and inducing local business expansion.

The Enterprise Zone was crucial to Facebook and important to the attraction of 10 other new companies to DeKalb County, including Ferrara Candy, Home2 Suites, Meadowvale, Meijer, Natural Polymers, Service Concepts, Solotech, Sopris Concrete and Syngenta.

• Paul Borek is executive director of DeKalb County Economic Development Corp.