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Local News

Joliet gives preliminary OK to incentives for Innovation Pavilion

JOLIET – An incentive package for a high-tech incubator project goes before the City Council for a vote Tuesday after getting committee approval.

The Joliet City Council’s Economic Development Committee on Thursday recommended approval for the deal that would provide free land, $200,000 in cash, tax incentives and possibly more.

The chief executive officer from Colorado-based Innovation Pavilion is slated to make a presentation at the council’s workshop meeting Monday.

City officials said they see the project as a potential image changer for Joliet because of the high-tech nature of Innovation Pavilion’s business, although they also acknowledged they have a hard time understanding what the company does.

“We’ve lagged behind on the image. We’re still viewed as a city of steel and stone and manufacturing,” Economic Development Director Steve Jones said. “This is like a big exclamation point downtown. This is really cutting edge.”

Committee Chairman Larry Hug said the Innovation Pavilion plan is “a new direction for Joliet. We stopped playing checkers. We’re good at that. We’re moving on to chess.”

Innovation Pavilion plans a downtown campus that would include incubator space for entrepreneurs developing new applications for technology.

In addition to providing incubator space, the Innovation Pavilion plan calls for housing, a science, technology, engineering and mathematics school and retail space at one of two possible downtown locations.

Both spots are owned by the city: a 2.7-acre parcel along the Des Plaines River north of Cass Street that is now the city’s Riverwalk parking lot and a 4.6-acre site under construction near the new train station that was formerly Lyons Lumber.

Jones called the city incentives a “no-risk” package because they provide that Innovation Pavilion would not get anything until the company applies for building permits. By that time, he said, the company probably would have invested more than $500,000 in the Joliet project.

Innovation Pavilion has one such incubator operation now, in Centennial, Colorado, but it is working on new campuses in Parker, Colorado, and Olathe, Kansas. A company executive said the company is looking to open campuses similar to the one planned for Joliet across the country.

Jones said the company also is looking at Rockford as a potential location.

Jones, Hug and other city officials, including Mayor Bob O’Dekirk, visited the company’s Colorado operation in September.

“I struggle understanding their business plan,” O’Dekirk said. “But when you have Silicon Valley billionaires in the room telling you this is the future, you listen.”

Innovation Pavilion founder and CEO Vic Ahmed is scheduled to speak to the council at its 5:30 p.m. meeting Monday.

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