City breaks ground on $13.8 million electrical substation project

‘Rochelle is a community that is on fire with infrastructure’

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ROCHELLE – The City of Rochelle broke ground on a new $13.8 million electrical substation project Friday at 1,600 Ritchie Ct. 

The substation will be the city’s third, which Mayor John Bearrows called “unheard of” for its size. The substation will increase reliability for nearby industry and reduce reliance on Rochelle’s Caron Road substation. 

The site is next to the old Nippon-Sharyo building, which will likely become the location of Project Jackpot in the future, a still-anonymous business that is said to be making a capital investment of over $130 million and adding 150 jobs that pay an average of $52,000 per year before benefits to the area. 

City Manager Jeff Fiegenschuh said Project Jackpot will be Rochelle’s largest electricity user. The substation will serve that and any other industrial growth going south. The capacity of the new substation is 120 megawatts and it will be the city’s largest. 

"In the real estate world, they talk about ‘location, location, location,’ Economic Development Director Jason Anderson said. “Rochelle has that. It's had it for 150 years. What most communities don't have is ‘infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure.’ Rochelle is a community that is on fire with infrastructure.”

Fiegenschuh said the city will be paying cash for the substation project. Last year Rochelle sold its transmission assets to ComEd and it will be using some of that money to fund the substation. 

Bearrows noted the importance of not having to borrow money for the project. 

"This project is an icon in my mind for the community,” Bearrows said. “What that icon means is, there's many pieces in that long chain of what makes a thriving, successful community. This is one of those links.”

There have been “some times” in the past where industries in town have experienced brownouts, Bearrows said. The substation should “hopefully” eliminate that, he said. 

Anderson continued to praise Rochelle’s recent investment in infrastructure. 

"We are a community of opportunity,” Anderson said. “There are hundreds of jobs available in the industries we have. And later this summer, we're going to announce a large manufacturing development company that will be coming to Rochelle, creating hundreds of new jobs. Why? Because we have the power, water, sewer, fiber, roads, highways and rail access.”