IEZA Fall 2006 Fall Conference Report

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The Illinois Enterprise Zone Association conducted a fall conference October 11 -13 in Rock Falls, IL which is one of the 11 units of government that is the Whiteside County Enterprise Zone. There were more than 50 attendees, most of which were zone administrators, mayors, board members, and consultants. All attendees were greeted with a great reception of good eats and drinks, especially the great dinner cooked by Jeff Rose of Colonial Rose in Grand Detour, IL.

On Thursday morning we heard presentations by Rock Falls Community Development Corporation Executive Director Christian Tscheschlok, on the Sauk Valley Partners Info Search Data Base use within Whiteside County as a cooperative effort of the Greater Sterling Development Corporation, the Rock Falls Community Development Corporation, and Whiteside County Economic Development. This data base is a collation of available building sites, buildings, and community assets as well as county information. It also includes a neat tool that will help you estimate enterprise zone abatement.

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Greater Sterling Development Director David Barajas and Sterling City Administrator Jay Wieland gave a presentation on the Redevelopment of the Former Northwestern Steel & Wire Property. This is quite a story as many former steel mill properties have sat closed and abandoned for many years, just turning into rusty eye sores. But not in Sterling – they have a great cooperative story to tell. All but approximately 100 acres have been either redeveloped or sold to a new developer, and more than 400 new jobs have been created. No “sit back and feel sorry for me” attitude in Sterling, that is for sure! It was a great joy and continues to be in working on the project to provide enterprise zone benefits with city officials.

After a great lunch at the Candlelight Inn we boarded a Scenic Stage Line Bus for a couple of tours. First stop, was a project I am very proud of, a $72 million investment within the Whiteside County Enterprise Zone, the Wal-Mart Mechanized Distribution Center #7024. This new Wal-Mart DC opened this past April. What a place! Unless you have been through such a facility, you have no idea what they could use all of that 900,000 square foot of space for. Along with the great investment, there have been 700 good paying jobs created at the facility and more than 100 new trucking jobs for the area.

Next, onto Drives Incorporated in Fulton, IL via a scenic drive down historic US Route 30, also known as the Lincoln Highway.

Drives Incorporated has grown from a small manufacturer of very simple chains used primarily in some ag equipment to being a leading manufacturer of a wide array of customized chains and auger products used in modern ag equipment and to convey any number of commodities and materials. Drives also manufactures an extensive product line of high precision roller chains used in the oil and gas industry and other power transmission applications. Its products are supplied to many big name companies in all parts of North America. During the past few years, Drives also started shipping its products to customers in Europe, Australia, South America, and many other parts of the world.

When asked why a little company in Fulton, Illinois has prospered these 45 plus years, most of the 400 Drives folks will talk about the Drives Pyramid of Core Values, its Guiding Principles that everyone including its executives, management staff, and its frontline shop floor experts are expected to embrace and abide by every day in their dealing with each other, customers and the community. We got to meet several of the management team, including my daughter Roxanne Bailey. Thanks to all of you for telling her she looks just like me!

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Continuing on our tour, we drove a few blocks to the banks of the Mississippi River and “de Immigrant”, the authentic Dutch Windmill built in the Netherlands specifically for Fulton, that sits on a berm along the flood control dike. Our hosts at the windmill told us the history and showed how the grain is milled at this authentic replica. What a treat as we got to meet Sally Heffernan’s mom, who is a volunteer at the windmill. Of course I have known her for a long time – what a great lady!

Our bus trip back to Rock Falls was filled with fun and laughter, with us catching Mary Heitzig sleeping! Do we have that picture anywhere?

Friday was filled with visits from State Senator Todd Sieben and State Representative Jerry Mitchell, as well as discussions and a presentation on the new River’s Edge pilot program by Thomas Henderson, Illinois DCEO. We then went onto legislative issues. One of the issues was whether IEZA should support legislation to make ethanol plants and wind farms state tax exempt for building materials and state utility taxes. This seems to be a really hot topic right now with the many ethanol plants and wind farms that are in the planning stages in the State of Illinois. The biggest request we are getting as zone administrators today is for the addition of territory to our zones so that these projects can get these exemptions. This eats up a lot the acreage in our zones of which we are limited to. We feel as an association we could and would support such legislation. More on this in the near future.

IEZA elections were conducted with the following nominations being made and approved: Secretary – Barb Koch; Marketing/Newsletter Co-Chairs – JoEllen Seil and Mark Williams; and Legislative/DCEO Liaison – John Thompson.