JOLIET – John Greuling, president and CEO of the Will County Center for Economic Development, gave the annual report to investors Friday at the Clarion Hotel in Joliet.
The report highlighted the number of new jobs, companies, industries, investments and projects happening throughout the county in 2017, and what strategies are needed going forward to continue economic growth.
Jobs, jobs, jobs
Greuling was pleased to talk about the continued economic success in Will County, especially compared with surrounding counties.
“This year, we had an extraordinary year,” he said. “I thought last year was sort of out of the park. We were able to maintain that momentum.”
The CED assisted with more than 90 businesses in 2017, resulting in more that 6,200 new jobs and more than $900 million in new investments. The annual report attributed this success to Will County’s location, transportation assets and abundant and skilled workforce.
Just in the private sector between 2001 and 2016, Will County has created 76,306 jobs compared with 28,499 in DuPage County and 12,568 in Lake County. Cook County has lost 46,571 private jobs during that time.
Community Friendly Freight
Greuling spoke at length about the county’s Community Friendly Freight Mobility Plan, which was completed in 2017.
He acknowledged that although the industry has continued to grow in the county, there has been much concern from local governments and residents about the effect with increased traffic and crashes on the roadways.
“The CED has taken a very proactive role with the Will County government and other partners in addressing the future of that industry sector in the county,” Greuling said.
Still, he emphasized the fact that freight is critical to the economic success of Will County, as 57 percent of all private sector jobs in the county are freight dependent.
For Greuling, that means the county was in need of more regional, state and federal support to advance freight safely and efficiently. The CED’s recommendations include expanding the East-West highway connectivity to reduce traffic on local roads and increasing air cargo capacity by continuing to support the South Suburban Airport that was proposed to be built in Peotone.
Major priority projects for federal funding the CED considers key to success in freight mobility include adding lanes and reconstructing bridges and interchanges on Interstate 80; reconstruction of the interchange at Interstates 55 and 80; adding lanes and reconstructing bridges on I-55; and the reconstruction of the interchange at I-55 and Weber Road.
Greuling said the CED is looking to begin implementing the Community Friendly Freight Mobility Plan in 2018.