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Chadwick jobs loss ‘going to hurt a lot’

Residents sad, understanding of company move

Published: Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012 1:15 a.m. CST

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CHADWICK – Residents in Chadwick are accepting, tolerant, friendly and just very good people, according to JoNell Castellani, director of the village library.

Those qualities are helping them these days to deal with news that the village of about 550 people will lose one of its major companies.

Sewer Equipment Co. of America recently announced it would leave the village, which has been its home for 2 decades. The company, which makes sewer and drain-cleaning equipment, vacuum trucks and trailers, will move to Dixon.

The company will move about 70 jobs and add about 30 more at its larger facility in Dixon. Vice President of Production John Wichmann said in late September that the company would start moving in about 45 days, and it hopes to be fully operational in Dixon by the second quarter of next year.

Chadwick’s residents and representatives of tax-supported local entities who were interviewed last week responded with an understanding and a firmly held belief that the town will move on.

The village has a branch of the Department of Motor Vehicles, a post office, Johnson’s Processing Plant (which produces beef and pork), at least three truck companies (Kness Trucking, Adolf Trucking and Bibler Co.), a school system that residents take pride in, and Chadwick Manufacturing (which makes grills, picnic tables and benches).

The village also is home to ComplianceSigns.com, which recently made Inc. magazine’s list of 5,000 fastest-growing companies in the United States for the third year in a row. The sign company’s revenue was $4.8 million in 2011, up from $3.4 million in 2010. It is the sixth fastest-growing manufacturer in Illinois, 60th in the country.

About 10 to 12 employees of the sewer equipment company are Chadwick residents, Village President Zelma McNeal said. Representatives of the company did not provide the number of its employees who live in the village.

Some Sewer Equipment Co. employees who live out of town eat at Uncle Hoser’s, the local bar and grill, McNeal said. But workers from out of town don’t fill up their cars’ tanks in Chadwick because the town has no gas station.

The village’s library has about 16,000 books and two computers. Chadwick Public Library is funded mostly through Carroll County, which has been receiving property taxes from the sewer equipment manufacturer.

“It’s going to hurt a lot,” Castellani, 65, said of the company’s departure from Chadwick. “Since the library’s funded through county money, that’s going to put a dent in the library’s income.”

She followed that statement with a verbal shrug of the shoulders, which is typical of local residents.

“But I understand if you’re a company, you have to do whatever’s better for you,” she said.

The town’s German heritage has something to do with its reaction to the company’s exit, she said.

“You have to understand, this is an almost 100 percent German population,” Castellani explained. “German people are stoic. There was no gnashing of teeth. It was like, ‘OK, roll with the punches.’”

Jeff Daehler, 57, a native Chadwick resident, works in Chadwick Manufacturing’s factory. Sewer Equipment Co. of America has sometimes contracted with Chadwick Manufacturing to make products, Daehler said, and he wore a black baseball-style hat with the sewer equipment company’s logo on it as he drank a soda while sitting outside his workplace.

“I’d like to see them stay in town, but they need more space,” Daehler said.

Sewer Equipment Co.’s new Dixon facility at 1590 Dutch Road has 125,000 square feet, which will double the company’s production space, Wichmann said.

Lauri Allspaugh grew up in Chicago and lived for a time in Sterling, but she and her husband have made Chadwick their home for 16 years, so their children “could have a less stressful environment.”

“I’d like to see them stay in town, but they need to move,” she said. “They have to do what’s best for their business. Where they’re moving is already set up.”

But the loss is sad, she added.

“The town seems to be dwindling, and it’s such a neat little town,” she said. “It has a lot of support for the children.”

The village of about 550 people has not recorded a loss of population lately. Its 2010 population was 551, and its 2000 population was 505, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The town has low property taxes in its favor, and the people are resilient, McNeal said.

“People here are, I think, ... nothing seems to get the best of them,” she said.

But the village has had trouble holding on to its high school graduates because not many local jobs can be found, some residents have said.

At age 20, Jamie Rose already has left Chadwick for Des Moines, Iowa, and returned, but she hopes to leave again. She works at Charlie’s Bar in Mount Carroll, and said Chadwick lacks “full-time, steady jobs.”

Adam Price, 27, is a graphic designer at ComplianceSigns.org. A Freeport native, he moved to Chadwick for the job, he said.

“Good for them,” he said of the sewer equipment company’s move. “They’ll be close to I-88.” He is disappointed the company did not move to Freeport, he said.

McNeal hopes the village can find other companies to occupy the buildings that Sewer Equipment is leaving behind.

“Hopefully, we’ll get some new people in the buildings, and it won’t be that bad,” she said.

McNeal said she had tried to persuade the company to stay, including trying to arrange a meeting between her grant writer and the company’s representatives. But the company declined the meeting as it needed a much larger facility and more vertical space to make trucks, not more lateral space, she said. Wichmann confirmed the need for a taller building was a primary reason the company did not want to stay in Chadwick.

According to the Carroll County treasurer’s office, three buildings owned by the company in Chadwick brought in a total of $20,018.46 in property taxes for the county last year, not all of which went to the village.

The village received $3,202.43 in sales taxes from manufacturers in 2011, according to the website of the Illinois Department of Revenue. That came from at least four manufacturers and cannot be broken down by company.

“It’s never good news for a city when a business leaves,” Wichmann said. “But in the same breath, ... while it’s not good news for Chadwick, it is good news for Illinois because we stayed in the confines of the state.”

The company considered a number of Iowa cities, including Clinton and its surrounding area, but decided to stay in the Prairie State after making a deal to get a 10-year tax credit worth more than $800,000 in exchange for hiring and retaining a certain number of employees.

“That was a key part of the decision,” Wichmann said.

Larry Miller, owner of Eastland Feed & Grain Inc., said he was village president when the sewer equipment company came to Chadwick.

“They needed a place, and the village had ground, so we gave them some ground and it went from there,” he said.

Miller, 75, said the sewer equipment company first set up across the street from his grain business.

“They were really good neighbors,” he said.

The company did a lot for the village, including cleaning out the village’s sewers for free when it needed to test its equipment.

“It’s a bad thing for the village,” he said of the move. But, he added, “it’s their business.”

Some Chadwick residents expressed hope that the village would benefit from the sale of nearby Thomson Correctional Center to the federal government. The U.S. Justice Department is expected to create 1,100 jobs at the never-opened prison, which is about 13 miles from Chadwick.

“The feds just bought the prison,” Rose said. “Who knows? Thomson is only like a town over.”

But Chadwick residents are not going to believe that the prison will create jobs in the area until they see it happen, Daehler said.

“They’re not going to get excited until things start to happen,” he said.

Timothy Schurman is superintendent of the Chadwick-Milledgeville school district and principal of the junior high in Chadwick. The district receives some property tax funds from the sewer equipment company.

“I don’t see it as being a large impact [on property tax revenue],” he said of the transfer. “What would hurt most is that we’re going to lose jobs. My district vitally needs jobs to draw families in. It’s a common problem in northwest Illinois: Whiteside, Jo Daviess, Carroll and Stephenson counties. We’re seeing an exit of manufacturing jobs. These jobs represent moms, dads and families.

“It’s a fine company,” he said. “We’ve been proud to have them locate in our small, little village.”

 

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