While 2020 was a turbulent year for the economy, Illinois has remained open for business, with site location and expansion planning embracing new and innovative ways of doing business. Intersect Illinois, the economic development organization dedicated to bringing jobs, investment and economic prosperity to Illinois, continued to see a steady stream of business development projects in 2020. Collaborating closely with partners at the state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), regional economic development organizations (EDOs), the business community and consultants, Intersect Illinois has continued to see strong interest in Illinois. The State of Illinois estimated commitments made by over 200 companies in Illinois in 2020 alone could generate a collective $4 billion impact, and bring over 12,000 new jobs to the state.
Much of the work to showcase Illinois’ business advantages and assets was done in new ways, with virtual meetings, modified site visits, and adaptations in the site selection process. All the while, the state’s core value proposition remained the same: Illinois is a global powerhouse in the center of North America, with unmatched infrastructure, talent and a business community like no other.
The state is well positioned to pursue growth opportunities in several sectors in the months and years ahead; industries that have remained strong throughout the pandemic closely align with those that were previously thriving in the state. Manufacturing, technology, life sciences, agriculture, energy, and transportation, distribution and logistics are among those highlighted in Illinois Governor JB Pritzker’s five-year economic plan as high growth potential industries and areas where the state is seeing continued advancement, and which will remain high growth sectors in the years ahead.
Transportation, Distribution and Logistics (TDL)
Illinois is at the crossroads of the American economy, making it a perfect location for transportation, distribution and logistics companies. Illinois TDL companies occupy more than 380 million square feet of space statewide.
Illinois is within a four-hour flight of all major North American destinations, home to the third-largest highway system in the U.S., the only state with all seven Class 1 railroads and home to the nation’s largest inland container port. Superior access is just one reason companies such as Amazon choose to expand their operations in Illinois. Amazon recently announced it would build three high-tech centers in Matteson, Markham, and University Park, accounting for more than 2,500 jobs. Amazon’s 13 current fulfillment centers employ 20,000 people statewide.
Another critical growth area for the state is data centers. Over the last year, Illinois has attracted over $2.2 billion in data center projects, including Facebook’s recently announced plans to build an $800M data center on 550 acres in DeKalb, Illinois, which will be among the most advanced, energy- and water-efficient data center facilities in the world. Facebook and others have noted Illinois’ robust fiber optic network, energy reliability and cost, renewable resources, low risk for natural disasters, strong and educated talent pool and supportive government as reasons to locate and expand in the state.
One key driver of recent data center growth in Illinois is its competitive benefits, including the passage of bipartisan legislation in 2019 which paved the way for incentives for data center development. Since the credit was signed into law by Governor Pritzker, Illinois has seen $4 billion in data center commitments accounting for more than 375 new jobs.
Illinois’ life sciences industry has also seen considerable growth. From legacy companies such as Abbott, AbbVie, and Horizon, to startups spun out of the state’s research universities, to hundreds of thousands of square feet of new wet lab space being developed, the industry is thriving. Ground was recently broken on Fulton Labs, a 423,454-square-foot facility in Chicago that will span 16 floors and Sterling Bay opened The Labs, a redeveloped, 125,000-square-foot medical research lab in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. These developments are attracting life sciences companies. For example, Xeris relocated its research and development operations to lab space, and Portal Innovations announced plans to open its life sciences development incubator in Chicago.
Rosalind Franklin University’s new Innovation and Research Park (IRP) opened in North Chicago in January 2020. The $50 million, 100,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art wet lab discovery hub houses 100 scientists and six disease-based research centers. The IRP can accommodate up to 15 bioscience companies; its first tenant, Inspirotec, will move in April of 2021. RFU also is home to the Helix 51 bioscience incubator, which includes approximately 5,400 square feet of wet-lab space supporting startups from northern Illinois.
The State of Illinois is paving the way for more new high tech lab space with the launch of a $9 million capital program aimed at expanding access to space that will lead to more research and development as well as important breakthroughs in medicine and life sciences. The program will help attract more companies to Illinois that are doing this important work.
Abbott is just one of the many Illinois-based life sciences companies leading in the fight against COVID-19. As one part of its efforts, Abbott hired more than 2,000 people in its Gurnee, Illinois facility to produce its credit card sized, 15-minute COVID-19 test, which received emergency use authorization from the FDA. The facility was expected to produce 50 million tests per month.
Regardless of industry, Illinois’ combination of qualified workforce and a competitive cost of doing business make the state attractive to companies considering expansions or relocations. With the world’s 18th largest economy and the nation’s 5th largest GDP, some of the most innovative and iconic companies including ADM, Allstate, Baxter, Boeing, Caterpillar, Conagra, Deere & Company, McDonalds, Mondelez, Nielsen, Northern Trust, State Farm and Walgreens are based in Illinois. Illinois remains a top choice destination for top global companies; the state has more Fortune 500 companies than anywhere else in the Midwest and over 400+ major corporate HQs, offices and facilities.
Home to more than 200 higher education institutions, Illinois is fortunate to have exceptional colleges and universities that fuel the state’s diverse and skilled workforce. One third of Illinois’ talent pool hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, which exceeds the national average. The state is home to two top 10 U.S. undergraduate universities, the University of Chicago and Northwestern, which are also home to two of the top business schools in the nation. The state is one of the largest producers of computer science graduates and the University of Illinois alone graduates more engineers each year than MIT, Stanford, and Cal Tech combined. The state’s wide-ranging workforce provides the depth of skilled workers companies need.
Illinois’ dynamic talent pipeline has contributed to a thriving tech and entrepreneurship ecosystem. A top location for tech companies, including a growing number of West Coast company expansions and relocations, Illinois offers a competitive cost of doing business, access to venture capital, and a concentration of STEM talent.
The Rebuild Illinois Capital Plan currently underway is an historic $45 billion capital plan passed by Governor Pritzker and the Illinois General Assembly in 2019. The largest capital plan in the state’s history, Rebuild Illinois impacts all modes of transportation and enhances connectivity and economic opportunity throughout the state. The plan will reduce the state’s equity gap, lay the foundation for long-term growth, and improve business attraction and retention by providing funding for infrastructure improvements. Initiatives include a $420 million program for broadband, a $15 million investment in manufacturing training academies, the new and aforementioned wet labs capital program, and tens of millions of dollars dedicated to public infrastructure funds and enhancement of brownfield sites in underserved communities across the state.
The state has tremendous leadership in Governor Pritzker, who since the beginning of the pandemic moved quickly to mandate mitigation measures guided by science and implemented Restore Illinois, a five-phase plan to reopen the state. Programs and expanded access to benefits developed include more than $1 billion (to date) in assistance for small businesses and communities in the wake of the crisis.
In addition, Illinois’ business, innovation and academic communities have come together to develop vaccines, tests, and treatments and to manufacture PPE. For example, a group from leading Chicago incubators mHUB, 1871, MATTER created the Chicago Proactive Response (CPR) COVID-19, an effort mobilizing the larger tech ecosystem to produce new respirators, open-source face shields, air purification devices and more. The State also partnered with iBIO (Illinois Biotechnology Association) and IMA (Illinois Manufacturers’ Association) to ramp up production of supplies. And, researchers across the state took action, with efforts such as the University of Illinois’ creation of a groundbreaking COVID-19 saliva test.
Additional collaborations that helped fuel Illinois’ recovery include the Illinois COVID Response Fund, which collected and distributed more than $30 million to 62 nonprofit organizations that help individuals, families and communities throughout the state and All In Illinois, a collaboration aimed at keeping Illinoisans safe at home.
Intersect Illinois and DCEO will continue to advance efforts to bring new jobs, investment and economic prosperity in the year ahead by continuing to build dynamic partnerships and collaborations with companies, universities, non-for-profit organizations and the government to deliver a unified approach to economic development. Illinois is well positioned for this growth because of its diverse industries, skilled workforce, investments in infrastructure, central location, government leadership and engaged business and civic community. If you are looking for the ideal location to relocate or expand, let us show you how Illinois meets the needs of nearly every industry. Visit intersectillinois.org to get in touch.