The I-39 Corridor is prospering with several significant industrial and commercial investments. Leading the major facility announcements is the location of Facebook’s Data Center in DeKalb, Illinois. The nearly $1 billion investment is generating infrastructure development in the area around the ChicagoWest Business Center. Nearby, Ferrara Candy Company is finishing construction of a 1.7-million-square-foot distribution center building and a packaging center building.
Amazon continues to grow in the Rockford market with the recent leasing of an additional 140,000 square feet in the former Bon-Ton warehouse building on Rockford’s north side. Amazon’s Prime Air continues to increase its utilization of the Chicago Rockford International Airport. The airport is once again the fastest-growing air freight business in the world.
Rockford’s other major industry is aerospace and aircraft parts and services. The two leading employers are Woodward, a manufacturer of aerospace and aircraft control systems, which has major plants and test facilities in the Rockford area community of Loves Park, and Collins Aerospace, which recently broke ground at its Rockford site for a new $18 million wind tunnel to streamline how the company’s Ram Air Turbines are manufactured and evaluated.
Belvidere and Boone County are seeking to have 60 percent of their workforce college-credentialed by the year 2025. Part of that plan is the attraction of the Rock Valley College’s Advanced Technology Center (ATC) that will open in the former Shopko retail store later this year. Growth Dimensions has set up workforce development efforts with local school districts and the Workforce Connection.
Development in the Illinois Valley area has included the launch of a new business park adjoining the state’s largest ethanol plant in Hennepin, Illinois, near the I-80/I-39 interchange. Marquis Energy is the developer of the Marquis Industrial Park, with 1,800 acres of buildable industrial sites. The park has service for barge loading and unloading through the Marquis Marine facilities along the Illinois River. The site is served by the Norfolk & Southern Railroad.
Rochelle has also benefited from the expansion of food processing companies and data centers. Mighty Vine tomatoes and Bright Farms continue to generate expansion in the market. Rochelle has recently completed its Rochelle Railway transload facilities and can load or unload a variety of rail cars that can be delivered or sent via Union Pacific or BNSF rail trains that intersect with the Rochelle Railway. Plans are also advancing for the Rochelle Railway to begin operating a container loading and unloading facility.
DeKalb County’s most recent success is the groundbreaking for Syngenta’s new agriculture research and development center located adjoining Kishwaukee College in Malta. The 96,000-square-foot facility will host 100 employees when complete. The project is on an 88-acre site that will provide for on-site development of crop protection and seed products.
At each end of the I-39 Corridor are the assembly plants for Rivian, a new electric truck and SUV manufacturer, and Stellantis, the parent company for the Jeep assembly plant in Belvidere. Rivian is due to begin shipping and selling its new vehicles this summer and is operating out of the former Mitsubishi plant in Normal, Illinois. The Jeep assembly plant in Belvidere is temporarily shut down awaiting a recovery of the automobile chip products that are key components in its Jeep Comanche vehicles made in Belvidere.
Throughout the length of the corridor, additional truck and auto travel centers have been constructed recently, further enabling truck movements within the Corridor.
Site selection for new industrial locations can be facilitated by contacting the economic developers, the real estate brokers, the construction companies and the engineering companies that make up the membership of the I-39 Logistics Corridor. The corridor website is www.i39logisticscorridor.com.
Roger Hopkins is president of Hopkins Solutions LLC. in DeKalb, Illinois.