DIXON – The City Council has done its part to entice a manufacturer that could bring 100 jobs and $35 million to $45 million of investment to nearby Rochelle.
The City Council Monday approved extending the Lee County Enterprise Zone to property on ProLogis Park near the Lee and Ogle counties border.
An enterprise zone is a statewide economic development tool utilized by select communities to convince new or old business to expand there by cutting a portion or all of their property taxes, sales taxes on building materials or utility costs.
This is the fifth time the enterprise zone has been extended into Ogle County, according to John Thompson, president of Lee County Industrial Development Association. The zone has been extended to annex Union-Pacific Global III Intermodal Terminal, Illinois River Energy, Nippon Sharyo and Coated Sand Solutions.
What’s being referred to as Project Golden Prairie, since the manufacturer will not release its identity, is looking to build a 300,000 square-foot facility with construction expected to be completed in 2013, if the project gets the go-ahead.
Construction is contingent on the extension of the enterprise zone and an incentive program through the state, said Jason Anderson of Greater Rochelle Economic Development Corp., emphasizing the project is still “in the works.”
Rochelle, which owns its city’s utilities, also may need to obtain more electricity to power the manufacturer.
“I’m always asked why the project wasn’t lured here instead,” Thompson said. “What needs to be realized is that we cannot tell these projects where to go. They decide for themselves where they need to be, and if there’s a way we can benefit by extending out an enterprise zone, that’s a positive for our communities.”
Anderson said past data has shown 75 percent of the workforce within the ProLogis Industrial Park is from outside of Rochelle, with about 25 percent hailing from Dixon, Sterling and Rock Falls. Dixon is about a 30-minute drive from Rochelle.
Thompson said there is no data available to show how many jobs for Lee County residents have been created by the extension of its enterprise zone to Rochelle.
“The partnership with Dixon has been what’s making this happen,” Anderson said of the growth of industry in Rochelle. “Within the next 2 to 3 years, we expect the whole industrial park to be annexed into Lee County (through the enterprise zone).”
If the manufacturer decides to build, Lee County’s enterprise zone will be left with about 213 acres out of the 15 square miles of zoning it had at its disposal, but Thompson said that should not prevent any future businesses from moving to the area.
“We can always take acreage from someone that was once designated for the enterprise zone, but no longer utilizing it,” Thompson said.
Since 2009, the Lee County Enterprise Zone has helped create 135 jobs and retain 401 more, bringing more than $60 million investment to the area.