DIXON – It was a day of celebration in Dixon’s industrial park Wednesday as local leaders, economic development officials and employees celebrated the groundbreaking for Bonnell Industries’ new manufacturing facility in the Lee County Business Park.
The three-generation company, founded in 1960, is a leading truck equipment distributor in northern Illinois and a major supplier of snowplows and spreaders for municipalities throughout the country. The new manufacturing facility, which will see at least 16 jobs added to Bonnell’s workforce over the next few years, is expected to be ready for use in July 2024.
As he addressed the large crowd gathered in the now-gravel lot at 325 E. Progress Drive, where the 100,000-square-foot facility will sit, Bonnell Industries’ Chief Operating Officer Bill Hintzsche said expanding the business to meet growing customer demand has been under discussion for years.
“It kicked off with a vision to build a manufacturing plant under one roof, not eight,” he said of the business, founded in 1960 by Jesse Bonnell and now owned by his grandson, Joe Bonnell.
“Joe and the team knew we needed expansion at Bonnell to meet customer demand, but as an organization we just couldn’t get the traction to pull the trigger and make it happen,” said Hintzsche. “In September 2022 we began investigating a 30,000-square-foot addition. Going to put on one more building, right, Building 8, I think. At the same time we were in discussions with Illinois Small Business Development Center, Sauk Valley Community College trying to understand what incentives were available to support small business in our efforts there.”
“After all that research, Joe says ‘Bill, this is just another Band-Aid. We’ve got to build for the future, not for today’,” Hintschze recalled.
That plan was scrapped, but in December 2022 the company heard the East Progress Drive parcel would become available. A meeting with Willett-Hofmann & Associates would soon follow as would the work to determine what financial incentives were available.
“We started chasing an opportunity to building out here”, Hintzsche said. “Since that time in December it’s been a full-court press.”
“We started chasing an opportunity to building out here. Since that time in December it’s been a full-court press.”— Bonnell Industries’ Chief Operating Officer Bill Hintzsche
The City of Dixon, Sauk Valley Bank, the Lee County Industrial Development Association, the Quad-Cities Regional Economic Development Authority, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, the Lee County Enterprise Zone and City of Dixon tax-increment financing helped pull all the incentives together.
“It was a deal-breaker,” Hintschze said of the industrial park TIF, which covers 236 acres south of I-88, between South Galena Avenue and U.S. 52. ”We needed that from the city to be able to pull this off.”
The Dixon City Council approved a business incentive agreement in June to reimburse Bonnell with up to $4 million in redevelopment costs through future property tax revenue generated in the city’s Industrial Park tax-increment financing district.
Bonnell will be reimbursed with 70% of its annual city property tax payment until reaching $4 million. The project is a $10.7 million investment, with an $8 million manufacturing building, parking and utility extensions as well as outfitting the site with $2.7 million in specialized manufacturing equipment, according to the development agreement. Bonnell also will annex its properties at 1385 Franklin Grove Road and 501 Anchor Road into the city limits and receive a 10-year property tax abatement as long as those properties weren’t sold.
Bonnell Industries closed on the property last month. When complete, the new state-of-the-art facility will house an environmentally friendly solar system composed of 29,000 solar panels that will produce 103% percent of the plant’s energy needs, including air-conditioning to keep workers comfortable.
Lee County Industrial Development Association Executive Director Tom Demmer praised the many entities that had the foresight to map out the business park so many years ago.
“This site here that we are on today is the result of many, many years of public and private partnerships. Decades ago, community leaders identified that Dixon had a potential for industrial growth and they laid out the industrial park that we are standing in today – the Lee County Business Park,” Demmer said. “They ran roads through the park, they platted it out, they brought sewer and water infrastructure, electricity, natural gas, fiber optics, they brought all those components that were needed to make this site ready for an industrial project.
“And they didn’t know just who or what or when that opportunity might be there, but they knew they had to have those pieces in place. And through the years, the city has supported the efforts out here through creation of an industrial park TIF district, through designating this site as part of the Lee-Ogle Enterprise Zone, and through working by trying to support a great local business like Bonnell as it pieced together the incentives and the programs that were needed in order to make this a fiscal reality,” Demmer said. “All those pieces wouldn’t be enough if it weren’t for the great products that Bonnell makes and the fantastic team that makes those products.”