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How did an Illinois suburb attract $1.2 billion in investments and create more than 5,000 new jobs?

By Sneha Choudhary
-    Feb 15, 2024
Credit : GMI Post

Lake County, a suburban region just north of Chicago, has witnessed an economic boom in recent years. The area attracted over $1.2 billion in direct capital investment in the last five years, generating more than 5,000 new jobs.

It is already home to the second-largest concentration of Fortune 500 companies’ headquarters in the Midwest, and is also known for its immense talent pipeline and thriving life science and advanced manufacturing industries.

Between 2018 and 2021, gross GDP grew 9.6% to $69.7 billion. Forecasts indicate continued growth, with GDP rising by 21.8% and employment growing by more than 10,000 new jobs by 2027.

At the helm of this economic success is the region’s economic development corporation Lake County Partners led by President and CEO Kevin Considine. In a conversation with GMI POST, Considine highlights three key strategies that helped Lake County continue its growth momentum.



Strategy 1: Focus on skilled workforce development

Lake County prioritizes building a strong talent pipeline, said Considine as he explained that their efforts “start early” by aligning education and training initiatives with industry needs.

“We have got a deep set of talent here, especially in advanced manufacturing and life sciences,” Considine said. To foster this advantage, Lake County focuses on early engagement, working with middle school students to spark interest in these fields. 

“We ensure students have significant exposure to what the industry is all about to develop their interests, skills, and careers systematically. Building this pipeline is the focus of our workforce development efforts,” he said.

There are nearly 14,500 Lake County high school students participating in career pathway training across the fields of manufacturing, healthcare and information technology. Manufacturing makes up the largest percentage of participants, with more than 8,000 students.

For the existing workforce, Considine emphasizes reskilling and upskilling to be more competitive.

“As the manufacturing heart of the United States, we ensure our workforce is adapting to trends like automation, AI, and sustainable practices. We help them understand the use case of advanced technology while ensuring they are environmentally conscious,” he also said.


Strategy 2: Nurture investor relationships 

Foreign investment plays a major role in Lake County’s economy, with Japan being a particularly valued partner. With over 25 Japanese-owned businesses operating successfully in the region, Considine said he considers Japan a critical investment partner.

“As the second-largest international investor in our region, we are grateful for our relationship with Japan. We thank all the Japanese businesses who chose to call Lake County their home,” he said.

However, building an attractive business environment goes beyond financial considerations. Lake County strives to create a welcoming community for investors and their families.

“It’s never just business,” said Considine, highlighting the region’s focus on providing amenities that ensure investors “feel at home.”

In addition, Considine underscores the importance of maintaining these relationships through consistent presence.

Commenting on his latest trip to Japan last fall to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the sister city agreement between Osaka and Chicago, Considine said, “We want the Japanese community to know that Lake County is here for them and the biggest way to do so is to keep showing up at all occasions.”


Strategy 3: Develop competitive infrastructure

For Considine, a successful business environment demands strong infrastructure. Lake County benefits from its strategic location near O’Hare International Airport, the world’s most connected airport. It also offers convenient interstate connectivity, which ensures that “businesses can move goods and people at all times.”

Reliable and affordable utilities are another essential factor for business success. “Our business sites are built on the foundation of reliable utilities which are available at a fraction of the cost compared to other locations,” Considine said.

Amid a boom in manufacturing, Lake County has employed nearly 100,000 locally, or one for every seven jobs. To meet the demand for talent, local leaders are investing in education.

There is no better example than the College of Lake County’s (CLC) new Advanced Technology Center, which is the crown jewel of manufacturing workforce development. CLC now has over 1,000 students in manufacturing programs, and the number stands to grow in the coming years. 

“We have a strong workforce ecosystem that is focused on bringing innovation and automation to Lake County’s manufacturing industry, and making sure that businesses can find the people that they need to thrive, said Considine, whose confidence in Lake County’s future is clear.

“Lake County will unquestionably be the best place for people to grow their businesses and careers in the upcoming years,” he added.

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