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Local News

Will County: Corporate headquarters wanted

Can Will County provide a good home for business?

JOLIET – Will County is not known for its corporate headquarters, but CEO Rocky Caylor is happy with Cadence Premier Logistics’ new home in Joliet.

“If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t do anything differently,” Caylor said at the Cadence headquarters, where the company moved in December.

Caylor talked about the company’s plans to create a campus to complement the trucking operation it runs out of Joliet. He is working on arrangements to bring in related businesses. Cadence even has an indoor soccer field with artificial turf, reflecting the company owner’s interest in the sport.

Most of all, Caylor said, employees are happier.

“For our employees just not having the headaches of traffic in Cook County, that completely changes things,” he said. “If somebody has to fight traffic every day going to work and coming home from work, that really affects the employees. If you can get away from that, it changes attitudes. It really affects the culture.”

Joliet city officials point to Cadence as the kind of development they would like to see in town because of the jobs and because a corporate headquarters raises the business profile of the community.

The city even made a pitch to Caterpillar Inc., which plans to move its corporate headquarters to the Chicago region.

Where the jobs are

Joliet and even Will County may seem a far-fetched option for a global company like Caterpillar.

Conventional wisdom is that Caterpillar is headed to Cook County.

So is the largest share of the Will County labor force.

According to the Workforce Investment Board of Will County, 35 percent of workers who live here commute to Cook County for their jobs. Only 31 percent of them work in Will County.

“That’s not unusual in a metropolitan region,” said Pat Fera, director of the Workforce Investment Board. “There are some jobs we will never have if you look at the stock exchange and all the financial institutions in Chicago.”

In Kane County, 34 percent of the people who live there work in the county.

The Will County Center for Economic Development for years has had a goal of attracting more corporate office space as a way to diversify the job market.

HQ opportunities

While Will County may not be a mecca for corporate office locations, it’s not exactly a desert, either.

Central Grocers in Joliet, Ozinga in Mokena and Ulta Beauty in Bolingbrook are a few of the Will County-based corporations that have regional and even national reach.

Even so, when Caterpillar announced it was looking for existing office space in the Chicago region for its corporate headquarters, there wasn’t a lot to offer.

Office space amounts to about 2 percent of the available business property in the county, said John Greuling, CEO of the Will County Center for Economic Development.

Unlike the massive 1 million-square-foot warehouses being built with plans to attract future users, construction of speculative office space is rare.

“They’re not building that anywhere,” Greuling said. “Nobody’s building speculative office space. Since the recession, there’s been a glut.”

Even in business corridors such as Interstate 88 in DuPage County, office vacancy rates are high, Greuling said. But for companies like Cadence that look for room to grow, Will County does have something to offer.

“We’ve got plenty of land, and it’s relatively affordable,” Greuling said, pointing to Julian Electric, which is coming to Will County to expand operations.

Now in Westmont, Julian Electric is building a 175,000-square-foot headquarters and manufacturing plant in Lockport on land near Interstate 355.

Greuling sees I-355 and Interstate 80 as two corridors with potential for office growth. The village of Orland Park, he said, is trying to create an office campus in an area along I-80 that is in Will County. Motorists passing the spot may notice the Horton Group building, a corporate headquarters for an insurance company with offices in five states.

Murer Group

The Murer Group, a health care consultant with clients in 42 states, moved its offices three years ago to a Mokena building near I-80.

The Murer Group is home grown, having started in Joliet in 1985.

CEO Lyndean Lenhoff Brick said the company moved to Mokena because it needed more space than it could find in Joliet. But she did not want to move out of Will County.

“We raised our children here. We have friends here. This is where we’re from,” Brick said. “The transportation is really good. The proximity to Chicago is very good. There’s a great workforce, too.”

Murer’s 35 employees come from throughout the metropolitan region, including downtown Chicago. Those who live in the city can catch the Metra train, which stops at a Mokena station within walking distance of Murer’s office.

“Our office is right by the train, and that was very important to me,” Brick said.

Cadence has 50 employees in its corporate office.

Jason Esser, vice president of administration and logistics, is an example of the kind of employee Caylor talked about. He lived in Joliet for years before the company made its decision to move here from Alsip. His wife, Tiffany, is a teacher at Nelson Prairie School in New Lenox.

His commute is shorter, and Esser said it is good to have the company in his hometown.

“I’m just happy as a resident of Joliet that Cadence is now part of the Joliet community,” he said.

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BIGGEST EMPLOYERS HEADQUARTERED IN WILL COUNTY

Silver Cross Hospital, New Lenox

Ozinga, Mokena

WeatherTech, Bolingbrook

Paduit Company, Tinley Park

Applied Systems, University Park

Ulta Beauty, Bolingbrook

Central Grocers, Joliet

G&W Electric, Bolingbrook

Source: Will County Center for Economic Development

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