OGLESBY — Success and change are happening with the North Central Illinois Economic Development Corp. (NCI), according to a report at the organization’s annual meeting held Wednesday at Illinois Valley Community College.
“Everything we do is focused on the future,“ Chairman Steve Aubry said.
“Only NCI is making the changes necessary to insure that our graduates and families can stay here and have a future here with good-paying jobs,” he said.
Aubry said NCI is the only organization in the region aggressively marketing Bureau, LaSalle and Putnam counties for new jobs, new investment and new tax revenue.
Thanks to effective NCI marketing, Aubry said industrial inquiries have increased from about eight a year to six or eight a month, a 400 percent increase.
More than 80 percent of 226 NCI inquiries are a result of new direct interaction with brokers and consultants, and not sitting back and waiting for DCEO to send a few leads a year.
Currently, NCI is working 26 active industrial projects in the pipeline that are reviewing sites in the region, Aubry said. Those 26 projects represent $615 million in new capital investment, more than 1,900 new jobs, hundreds of new construction jobs and more than $14 million in new annual tax revenue.
The annual report to investors pointed out:
• Financial support from more than 200 private and public sector board members and executives.
• Marketing success with a more than 400 percent increase in industrial leads.
• More site visits and projects from brokers, consultants and developers.
• The region is being considered for more new projects than ever, and being a finalist for projects from Ireland and China.
• An international, award-winning website that is the region’s global front door for marketing.
• A strong audited financial statement.
Ivan Baker, who has been president of the regional marketing organization since its inception three years ago, is leaving NCI in July to accept a new private-sector consulting position with Crowe LLP in Chicago.
“Our executive search has begun,” Aubry said, “and the board is committed to maintaining a full-time successful marketing organization that our region deserves. This is not a part-time or short-term activity.”
Among other news at the annual meeting, it was reported that during the past year, 106 new, good-paying manufacturing jobs were created in the region, and the unemployment rate was reduced to 5.5 percent.
New investments have been made by manufacturing companies such as ADM, Viakable, Vactor and Pilkington. Household incomes and home market values have also increased.
During the meeting, Baker pointed out continuing concerns tied to population loss, reduced labor force numbers, and the loss of jobs in the retail and service sectors.
Almost six years ago, regional leaders got together realizing that the status quo was not working. Debb Ladgenski, NCI board member and board member of the Illinois Valley Area Chamber of Commerce, pointed out that IVAC was one of the first groups to realize the critical need for a new, full-time regional marketing organization.
“IVAC themselves knew they could not do it. No other area organization can do what NCI is doing,” Ladgenski said.
Baker referred to a comment from Jerry Szatan, one of the top site selection consultants in the nation. Szatan said, “The first goal of a regional marketing effort (like NCI) is to fill the pipeline with interest. NCI is achieving success in generating inquiries.”
Aubry said: “There will always be naysayers and people that have unrealistic expectations. We are in a very competitive world, and we will not go back to the ways of the past that did not work. NCI marketing is needed now more than ever.”
Baker said: “We know that the leaders want to serve the 150,000 citizens of our region. NCI has the proven success and momentum meeting the demands of prospects with integrity, professionalism and optimism. I am confident that NCI will continue to be the honest, go-to source for information to serve industrial prospects.”