Rotary: Demmer, Anderson excited for industrial future of area south of town
‘It's one of the most attractive sites in the entire state of Illinois for development’
ROCHELLE — Former State Rep. Tom Demmer was the presenter at the March 14 meeting of the Rochelle Rotary Club. Demmer is now the Lee County Industrial Development Association’s executive director.
Demmer spoke about LCIDA and how it factors in what’s happening in Rochelle, how the region can work together to attract industry, the enterprise zone in and south of Rochelle that’s attractive for development, housing and House Bill 4412.
The Lee-Ogle Enterprise Zone includes 1,000 acres in an area that runs south from the city’s industrial park into Lee County. City, county, state and federal investment has yielded $75 million worth of infrastructure to attract industrial growth. Demmer said Tuesday that the area is “ripe for development” in the future. It has access to rail and streets and sewer, water, gas and electrical capacity.
Over the past few weeks, Demmer and City of Rochelle Economic Development Director Jason Anderson have been working with Intersect Illinois, a statewide economic development organization that works on high-profile projects including drawing businesses to make large investments in the state. That organization has launched a new initiative to compile a catalog to use to refer developers to “mega site opportunities.”
“Of the first sites across the state that they've identified, on the list of 13 sites is the dual-rail megasite in the City of Rochelle and Lee County,” Demmer said. “It's number two on the list that they're promoting. There are so few of these 1,000-acre sites with all of the infrastructure and resources and people are desperate for those. We're able to give them a great opportunity here given the proximity to rail lines, interstates and infrastructure.”
Demmer said that this week, local representatives will be submitting a request for information response back to Intersect Illinois.
“I have to say, it's been pretty satisfying to say how many things we have in place that they're asking for,” Demmer said. “Given the size and capacity of this site, it's one of the most attractive sites in the entire state of Illinois for development.”
Anderson spoke at the Rotary meeting as well and said he and Demmer are working on the idea of the area presenting itself as more of a “regional effort” in economic development. He believes now that LCIDA has a full-time executive director, the time has come to “generate a true partnership.”
One current factor that could stand to impact the Lee-Ogle Enterprise Zone is House Bill 4412, which removed local control for approval of solar and wind development. Anderson has said in the past that he has fear that the enterprise zone will attract solar and wind developments that could be approved by the state, rendering it unusable for its planned industrial growth purposes.
“House Bill 4412 is the antithesis of economic development,” Anderson said. “Tom was in the legislature when it passed and opposed it. He's very knowledgeable of the inner workings of Springfield and we're working behind the scenes to overcome that legislation.”
Another issue facing local industry is workforce, which Demmer called “one of the scarcest resources today.” He said improving that situation locally is a priority of his.
“If we saw a project that wanted to come in with 200 new jobs, it would cause a little heartburn because you have to think about where those people are going to come from,” Demmer said. “Is it just going to be pulling from the existing pool we have? We have to think of ways to bring in new people to move to the area drawn in by the good job opportunities that will become contributing and active parts of our communities and economies.”