ROCHELLE – Rochelle Economic Development Director Jason Anderson is on an 11-day trip to Germany and Poland with a delegation of business leaders led by Gov. Bruce Rauner.
The mission is largely organized and paid for by Intersect Illinois, the private economic development organization formed in 2015, at the urging of the governor.
The main objective of the trip is to bring more foreign investment and jobs to Illinois. Germany already is Illinois’ third largest foreign investor, with 212 German companies operating in the state, employing more than 36,700 of its residents. In 2017, German entities bought more than $3.37 billion of Illinois goods and services, a 67.7 percent increase since 2009.
“Germany is an extremely important investor in Illinois,” Rauner said in a news release. “It is Illinois’ third largest foreign direct investor by employment. Machinery and equipment, computer and electronic products, chemicals and fabricated metals represent billions of dollars in business and thousands of jobs for Illinoisans.”
The governor said Poland’s economy is growing quickly and there is great potential for collaboration, particularly in agricultural-related businesses. Representatives of the University of Illinois are there to discuss the potential for research partnerships.
Anderson was invited to go to Europe after taking part in Rauner’s trade mission to Asia in September. He jumped at another chance to market the region to direct foreign investors.
“We need to brand ourselves as a region – I’m here to promote Rochelle, Rockford, Sterling, Dixon and Freeport,” Anderson said. “This is an opportunity to make a lot of connections with companies that are already in Illinois or considering coming here.”
Anderson is one of three economic development directors in the 21-person group. He left April. 13, spent the first 3 days in Poland, and then landed in Munich. He said the governor has pushed them hard. Most days start at 5:30 a.m. and work finally wraps up at midnight or later.
“I’ve been on a bus ever since getting to Germany – we’ve driven about 1,600 miles to mainly meet with CEOs and take tours of businesses that are already here and talking about doing more in Illinois,” Anderson said.
Anderson said he’s excited about going to the Hannover Messe trade show, the world’s largest manufacturing exhibition that starts Monday.
“This is 27 times the size of McCormick Place, so it’s a great opportunity to make business connections,” he said.
Anderson said these trips can be a reminder of how the world can be a much smaller place than it seems. He toured Stern-Wywiol Gruppe, a large high-tech food and animal feed company with a broad international reach. While there Friday, he learned the company has a line of dairy stabilizers, which Crest Foods in Ashton uses to bring a creamy consistency to milk products such as ice cream and sour cream.
“I asked them if they knew of Crest Foods, and because they have North American headquarters in Aurora, they said they had,” said Anderson, a former Crest Foods plant manager. “They would like to introduce their product to Crest, so I am going to connect them.”
Several companies have talked about moving freight by air and Anderson has pushed the Rockford airport as a viable option. Many are looking for warehouse space, with one business specifically seeking a 41,000-square-foot building near Elgin.
Coming from Rochelle, Anderson was amazed by the Hamburg port, Germany’s largest, where 8.2 million intermodal containers come through each year.
This trip is very different from the state’s trade mission to Asia last year.
“The governor is making significant inroads here, and I think there will be more direct benefits this time,” Anderson said.
The governor said some announcements would be made when the trip wraps up.
The Rauner foreign investment mission included visits with the following companies that already have a strong foothold in Illinois:
* Vetter Pharma - Company is opening a $320 million facility in Des Plaines.
*Fresenius Kabi - A medical company that employs about 1,700 at several Illinois locations.
* Haribo - Confection maker known for its gummy candies keeps U.S. headquarters in Rosemont.
* Harting Technology Group - The maker of industrial connectors runs its U.S. operations from Elgin.
* Thyssenkrupp - Opened North American regional headquarters in Chicago in 2012.