Six Incredible Businesses Planting Roots in Illinois—and Blossoming
As major companies have continued to invest in the state, they have sent a strong message: Illinois has the potential to become an economic powerhouse once again.
While historically the state has seen downturns in its business climate, the last few years have seen significant rebounds with businesses investing in Illinois.
But such developments can only be encouraged by new economic policies. Among the challenges Illinois faces are steep deficit spending, unbalanced budgets, and high taxes that discourage business growth within the state. Governor Bruce Rauner has noted the need for policies that balance the budget without new taxes, ensuring better stability and enticing further business investments.
“Today, we have an opportunity to turn yesterday into tomorrow, and make Illinois the
powerhouse job creator it should be,” Governor Bruce Rauner told constituents during his 2018 State of the State address.
“With 36 Fortune 500 companies, 1.2 million small businesses and 72,000 of the nation’s greatest farms, [Illinois is] the world’s 17th largest economy,” he added.
In recent years, Illinois has seen a surge in economic optimism and business interest. From multiple new Amazon facilities and now a bid for its headquarters, to the state-of-the-art new offices of Glassdoor, to major pharmaceutical brand Vetter establishing a massive new campus, the state is experiencing critical growth. Company heads say it’s because Illinois has strong economic potential—potential bolstered by Governor Rauner’s economic development measures, including better tax and fiscal policies.
We took a look at some of the top companies who have expanded or planted new roots in Illinois, and why it’s an investment they believe in.
One of the biggest and most competitive companies to have made a continued investment in Illinois has been technology and shipping giant Amazon.
Since 2014, Amazon has opened a whopping eight new facilities throughout the state, including Aurora, Edwardsville, Joliet, Romeoville, and Monee—adding over 7,000 full-time jobs to Illinois’ workforce. Employees at Amazon see full health and retirement benefits, stock options, and parental leave.
“In just over two years, Illinois has proven itself to be an ideal location from which Amazon can continue offering customers our vast selection and superfast shipping speeds,” said Akash Chauhan, Amazon’s vice president of North American operations, when he announced two new shipping facilities in Aurora. “We’re excited to be growing and creating even more full-time jobs.”
“[This] … further strengthens Illinois’ position as one of the nation’s top states for logistics and distribution,” added Sean McCarthy, director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
Illinois is also on the company’s shortlist as a potential location for its new, world-class headquarters. In March, company executives came to Chicago to inspect several sites, including along the Chicago River as part of a new technology incubator campus.
In 2017, employment rating company Glassdoor opened a new 51,500-square-foot office in Chicago’s booming Fulton Market district. The state-of-the-art campus was built to house 400 new employees, and offers a shuttle service to train stations for workers outside of Chicago.
"It's been incredible to witness Glassdoor's Chicago expansion,” said Robert Hohman, Glassdoor CEO and co-founder. “In less than two years, this office has grown into one of Glassdoor's largest employee centers with a dynamic and talented group of people dedicated to helping companies recruit and hire."
German pharmaceutical company Vetter is among the biggest business investments made in Illinois in recent years.
Last year, Vetter closed on a sale to build a $350 million campus on a 17-acre property formerly owned by the Salvation Army in Des Plaines. The new site will span an impressive 1.2 million square feet and comprise a manufacturing facility, warehouse, offices, and laboratories, and over 500 new employees are expected to be hired.
The new facility was made possible by several business-friendly incentives Illinois offers, including a grant from the state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and a property tax incentive that assessed the value of the property for a 12-year span. The campus is expected to generate $1-2 million in property taxes, according Des Plaines City Manager Michael Bartholomew.
“We are excited about the positive outcomes this project can bring to the city of Des Plaines, and becoming a good and trustworthy neighbor to its residents,” said Vetter Managing Director Peter Soelkner in a release.
McHenry manufacturing staple Fabrik Industries completed a historic expansion in 2017 with the purchase of a second facility. Though owners considered a number of options both within Illinois and out, they ultimately chose to continue its mission as a manufacturing leader in their home state of 35 years.
“One of the pillars of economic development is retention, because 80 percent of net new job growth comes from existing businesses,” Pam Cumpata, president of McHenry County Economic Development Corp., said in the news release. “The expansion of Fabrik Industries is an excellent example of why MCEDC works closely with our primary businesses, our county, and municipal partners with the shared goal of retaining our business base.”
Chicago’s South Side saw a major economic boost in 2017 with the announcement of an auto parts manufacturer opening a new location in 2019. Flex-N-Gate, based in Urbana, said its new facility plans to add about 300 jobs, and currently employs more than 23,000 people at 62 manufacturing sites around the world.
"The U.S. automotive industry is strong, and that's also true here today in my beloved state of Illinois and in the great city of Chicago," said owner Shahid Khan, a Pakistani immigrant who attended the University of Illinois and also owns the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars and the English Premier League's Fulham Football Club. "We fully anticipate that our future operation here will be a difference-maker for Flex-N-Gate, Ford Motor Co., the automotive industry and workers here in the Chicago area."
In 2015, rather than move out of state, technology and manufacturing company Chamberlain Group decided to build a brand-new, modern headquarters for 500 of its employees in suburban Oak Brook Terrace.
"[Chamberlain Group] has exciting plans to grow as we continue to focus on innovative, technology-driven solutions for our users,” Chamberlain Group CEO JoAnna Sohovich said in a statement. “Our new home provides our company with a dynamic space to grow in. Every day the market is evolving to become more sophisticated, so as a leader in our space, it is critical that every facet of our business evolves in the same way. This new headquarters is an important step in that direction.”
We will keep our WW4C community updated as more companies choose Illinois to plant their roots.