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It’s not just the politicians screwing up this state

Thursday, May 27, 2010

* Since last year, a small group of local citizens has been fighting Navistar’s plans to build a corporate headquarters in Lisle and bring 4,000 jobs to the site. They’ve forced the town to hold large numbers of hours-long zoning hearings on the matter, they forced subpoenas to be issued and depositions to be taken, threatened lawsuits and recently filed suit to restart the excruciating hearing process all over again. Lisle has spent $200,000 on the process.

Navistar scaled back its plans in March, but that didn’t satisfy the opponents and now the company has thrown in the towel

Navistar officials said Wednesday the company is no longer interested in moving its international headquarters to Lisle.

The announcement took many by surprise, and prompted a flurry of activity, including an attempt by Gov. Pat Quinn to step in. Business leaders and county policymakers were quick to condemn a vocal few for thwarting the plan.

Stung by what they called unfair criticism that was sullying the engine-building giant’s reputation, Navistar will begin looking for other sites, possibly but not necessarily in Illinois, said Don Sharp, Navistar’s vice president of communications.

“We certainly never signed up for our company to be put on trial by a small group of people opposing economic development,” Sharp said. “In our view, we are being put on trial for things simply beyond zoning issues.”

* But the opponents are still unmoved…

Rich Wilkie, another neighbor who spoke against the proposed plans repeatedly, is skeptical that the company is really walking away.

“All Navistar has said is that they will be stepping back from the zoning hearings and revisiting other locations that they previously considered,” he said. “It could very well be a strong-arm tactic to cause backlash to those who oppose elements of their proposal.”

He reiterated his wish to have Navistar put in writing the assurances it has made in public meetings.

“Many public officials were subpoenaed for these hearings, in an effort to get at the truth and determine what has gone on in the back rooms,” Wilkie said. “There is no question that Navistar has the zoning board and village board votes to get the deal done, so there are other forces at work here. The public should not be so quick to play into their hands and condemn this as a bad thing. There is a lot more to this story.”

* Indiana is now working hard to woo the company to Fort Wayne

The cost of running a combined operation in Fort Wayne would be about $33 million less annually than the cost of doing it in Lisle, according to an Ernst & Young 2009 comparison study commissioned by Navistar. The economics are in Fort Wayne’s favor, Udris said.

* This all started because parents of children attending a nearby school for autistic children were worried about about the company’s plans to build a diesel engine testing facility on-site. It snowballed into something bigger and Navistar couldn’t stop the opposition even after addressing the parents’ concerns.

What a mess this is.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - John Bambenek - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 11:21 am:

    Indiana once again thanks Illinois for the business we’re sending them.

  2. - Downstate Commissioner - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 11:22 am:

    NIMBYS!! IH should look downstate-am sure that Decatur or Peoria or Lincoln or even smaller towns would be very willing to have them come in…

  3. - Anonymous - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 11:25 am:

    Quinn better step in and work it out. Sending 4000 jobs to Indiana would be death right before November.

  4. - siriusly - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 11:26 am:

    For the amount of money the state would be losing (if those jobs went to Indiana) we could build those NIMBY’s a new school!

  5. - ILPundit - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 11:27 am:

    The central low of politics and government is very simple and never changes: we always get the government we deserve, because we are the ones who put them there.

    This is a perfect example. These people are as crazy and short sighted as our politicians. Its no wonder we can’t elect anyone worth a crap.

  6. - ILPundit - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 11:27 am:

    Should have said “law”, not “low” in the previous post.

  7. - downstate hack - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 11:29 am:

    Where was the Governor’s office before now. Too little too late. 4000 jobs to Indiana

  8. - jim - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 11:30 am:

    seems par for the course for Illinois.

  9. - He Makes Ryan Look Like a Saint - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 11:31 am:

    I am sure down-state would welcome them with open arms!!!!

  10. - jon - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 11:35 am:

    We can thank Sen. Dillard for changing his position on this important project and opposing it, after first supporting it. Unbelieveable!

    Sometimes, political grandstanding can have consequences. In this case, it will cost thousands of jobs and at least tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue.

  11. - Vote Quimby! - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 11:44 am:

    ==In addition, a lawsuit was filed last week seeking to restart the hearing process.==
    I like how the Lisle mayor got elected by campaigning against a Meijer store, then is stung by this development. Karma, baby…

  12. - Old Milwaukee - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 11:49 am:

    LoL. Not laugh out loud. Lack of Leadership.

  13. - Team Sleep - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 11:50 am:

    If I were Navistar - and I am not saying this tongue-in-cheek - I would sue the bloc of residents who put the company and the town through hell. That would set an interesting precedence, but it would stop people from halting necessary economic development (read: jobs) projects. And I think Lisle should follow suit (no pun intended) and also take action. Hold-ups like these aren’t free and they show how much it can cost a town, city, county or state to battle an obstructionist group or bloc of residents - not too mention the cost to a business.

  14. - Jake from Elwood - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 11:50 am:

    Navistar was a good corporate neighbor and made many accommodations to the project and I understand that they satisfied the needs of the autistic school.
    It is noteworthy that there was an existing corporate use on the property. The site wasn’t a bucolic nature area. Without question, the opponents killed the deal. They scared the Village by allying themselves with a group that has a long history of opposing development in DuPage County and Lisle in particular.
    Navistar will probably move its operations out of its Warrenville facility and we can thank the small but vocal minority of nimrod NIMBYs for it.

  15. - Jake from Elwood - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 11:54 am:

    Team Sleep-
    The anti-SLAPP law has severely limited the merits of such an exercise.

  16. - Bluefish - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 11:56 am:

    Remember this is a corporate HQ. The top executives want to live in an environment that supports their lifestyle (the area around Warrenville/Lisle being ideal). Fort Wayne or downstate does not have the amenities most CEOs desire. But places like Dallas, Denver, etc. do. Quinn better get going if he wants to claim credit for keeping Navistar in Illinois.

  17. - Sueann - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 11:58 am:

    Oh my, the special ed interests again. Who would have even thought?

  18. - Living in Oklahoma - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 11:58 am:

    It may not be just the politicians screwing up this state, but the citizens can’t hold a candle to the triple reverse screwup that Illinois politicians have been able to pull off over the last 10 years.

  19. - Secret Square - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 12:01 pm:

    Since I have an autistic child I think it’s important to point out that the parents of the school children do NOT appear to be the ones primarily to blame for this fiasco. They had a legitimate concern, since background noises which “normal” people ignore or get used to can be extremely distracting and excruciating to autistic children (like fingernails on a blackboard).

    However, if Navistar answered their concerns then what seems to have happened here is that a group of chronic NIMBYs used (perhaps exploited isn’t too strong a word) those concerns as an excuse to stop the project completely.

  20. - Adam Smith - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 12:04 pm:

    Don’t forget the always helpful trial lawyers who swept in and began suing the crap out of everyone.

    I can only hope that those morons who opposed this someday get a taste of their own medicine and their livelihoods are ruined by NIMBY’s who don’t care about facts.

    The amazing thing isn’t that a company is deciding to leave Illinois…the amazing thing is that any of them are willing to stay.

  21. - Wizzard of Ozzie - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 12:06 pm:

    “downstate hack - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 11:29 am:

    Where was the Governor’s office before now. Too little too late. 4000 jobs to Indiana”

    The Governor’s office proposed and passed an EDGE tax credit incentive package for Navistar this session. They’ve done everything they can to keep Navistar here. But rant away.

  22. - Six Degrees of Separation - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 12:07 pm:

    Fort Wayne or downstate does not have the amenities most CEOs desire.

    Probably true in part, but I can think of a half dozen places within a 300 mile radius, not in IL, that would probably be acceptable, and one or more of them is going to be more hospitable than Lisle.

  23. - GetOverIt - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 12:12 pm:

    No jobs + no tax revenue = no funding for the school. Hmmmm….which came first, the chicken or the egg…?

  24. - Six Degrees of Separation - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 12:16 pm:

    IL is a funny state. For example, a new highway is being planned to connect Peoria to Macomb, a modest traffic market at best, and there is virtually no opposition to it, and the folks in the area are hopeful it will attract a car or 2 and some new business. But almost every highway project in northeast IL, even to add a lane to a congested road that is already there, is met with vigorous and well organized opposition. This is not to defend either position, but to point out the schizophrenic nature of the state.

  25. - Responsa - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 12:28 pm:

    This story about how a few “concerned citizens” and greedy lawyers can cause a famed corporation with long Illinois ties to consider leaving the state to find a hospitable site for a new corporate HQ and testing facility–taking along with it thousands of high paying jobs (and taxpayers) makes my blood boil. I guess the Jobs Jobs Jobs mantra doesn’t mean much in Illinois. I know corporations like Navistar have their own legal departments to deal with this sort of stuff, but who is financing this anti-Navistar campaign in Lisle?

  26. - Observer - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 12:29 pm:

    Autism seems to be skyrocketing these days to where is seems to be replacing last generations diagnosis of behavioral problems on ADD. The goal of so many of the parents it seems is to make everyone and everything conform to the so called special needs of their children. While this would be nice in a perfect world we unfortunately have to live within our means, or at least somewhat within them in Illinois. The foot should have been put to the floor on this one. It takes taxes to pay for the schools and in this situation the proverbial goose that lays the golden egg was shot.

  27. - Logical Thinker - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 12:29 pm:

    Reap what you sow.

  28. - Ian - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 12:54 pm:

    Neil Steinberg of the Sun Times wrote a great column about this a few months back. Its sad that job creation can be blocked by a handful of parents that send their kids to a school that was built in what zoning laws would call an industrial area.

  29. - unclesam - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 12:56 pm:

    In this thread, I just ask that we should all be very careful about what is said about the autistic school and autistic children in general for two reasons:

    1. The school and Navistar came to terms and resolved their issues — so the school and parents of the children are NOT to blame for this potential loss of a major IL employer and its jobs.

    2. I know many parents with autistic children, and there are many valid reasons to consider how they may be affected by changes in their environment. Please, at least do a little “google” search on how autism affects a person before making statements about autistic children.

  30. - HW - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 1:08 pm:

    Too bad Navistar didn’t try to locate in Marion, Illinois. They would have been welcomed with open arms.

  31. - Ghost - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 1:10 pm:

    Im torn, it is unfortunate the State may lose such a good business; and diesels engines are green to boot (diesel fuel can be made from biological material).

    On the other hand, this proves that it is not the States Tax system which is bad for business….

  32. - Reality - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 1:28 pm:

    These Lisle people are fools. I hope Navistar pulls out to go to Indiana. Illinois is broken and bankrupt (both economically and politically) and sadly it seems devoid of commonsense. It is no wonder no one wants to do business here. Fools.

  33. - Vole - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 1:29 pm:

    Anything north of I-80 is an overdeveloped monstrosity anyway so what the hell? Add to it.

  34. - David Ormsby - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 1:39 pm:

    Watch those Lisle parents be the same ones who complain about their property taxes.

  35. - fed up - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 1:49 pm:

    Can anyone really blame any company that moves out of Ill. Between coruption and taxes this is no place to do buisness.

  36. - Responsa - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 1:53 pm:

    I would very much like to see a segment on WTTW about this. Carol Marin, are you out there?

  37. - DuPage Dave - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 1:59 pm:

    Vole- you don’t seem to know what you are talking about. For an “overdeveloped monstrosity” it’s surprising the majority of Illinois citizens choose to live here.

  38. - Park - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 1:59 pm:

    I don’t see the senior management moving to Fort Wayne Indiana. But I can sure see them moving 75% of the jobs somewhere else. NIMBY’s just put a whole corporate HQ into play. Now Navistar will be justified in listening to all the offers thrown at them by competing states. Remember how Boeing came to Chicago?

  39. - PFK - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 2:01 pm:

    Navistar’s problem was that they worked a deal that managed to upset just about every kind of activist you could think of. They tried to work a deal that involved government incentives, a TIF district, a free gift of Forest Preserve land, not to mention the fact that it promised a lot of noise, emissions and hazardous chemicals next to a forest preserve, a school for children with autism, who are extremely sensitive, and a wealthy neighborhood, who let’s face it, are going to be more vocal if they don’t like something. Yeah, they made the school happy by making some changes to the facility, which might have helped minimize the environmental impact as well, but they kept pushing the TIF and other freebies. Why does a corporation like Navistar need a TIF when their CEO — just one guy in the company — earns TWICE what Lisle collects in property taxes every year? Why do they need DuPage to donate them a small parcel of forest preserve land, I think it was valued at about $2 million. To Navistar, that’s nothing. Why didn’t they just offer to buy it outright so DuPage could replace the land. It’s stuff like that really made this look like a shady deal.

    Corporations in general are getting WAY too greedy with incentives and freebies from local governments, and in this case, it definitely complicated a deal that had challenges to begin with.

  40. - dupage dan - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 2:27 pm:


    So what you’re saying is that Navistar compromised by addressing the needs of the autistic students at the school which also addressed some of the environmental issues. They still, however, looked to maintain some of the other benefits. Yet, that wasn’t enough. Lisle folks just wanted it all - no compromise.

    I live in Downers Grove - right next to Lisle. We’d be pleased to have Navistar move in - maybe we could get them to move a few miles rather than out of state. Do wonders for my real estate taxes. Not going down in DuPage county anytime soon.

    Competition for these kinds of business moves is quite keen. The shady perks you refer to are just part of the business of wooing major players to come, stay and expand. Your claims are misguided, ignorant and selfish. Pop a cork, winner.

    BTW - I didn’t know Dillard was against this plan. What was he thinking?

  41. - Segatari - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 2:37 pm:

    I wonder what kind of employment these people who were opposed have? Are they flipping burgers at McDonalds or do they have any decent line of work where they aren’t commuting a very long distance?

  42. - D.P. Gumby - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 4:26 pm:

    Excuse me, but where did the “greedy lawyer” slam come into this??? Sounds like the NIMBYs were in charge.

  43. - VanillaMan - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 4:36 pm:

    Navistar has conditions upon their selection process which were impacted when it was revealed that a school for autistic children was too close for the environmental noises associated with diesel engine testings.

    That’s life. Lisle could either move the school or Navistar could look someplace else. After being unable to reach a compromise with Lisle residents concerned over their location in proximity to their homes, Navistar moved on.

    Lisle loses for now. So, it seems, does Illinois.

    When the Lisle property was being originally considered, the professionals hired to consider these environmental issues, failed to do their jobs.

    Like a groom scorned by the bride at the altar, both will live on and find others.

  44. - rick - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 4:47 pm:

    Hooray for the vocal minority. It is democracy at its best.

  45. - IL job booster - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 5:07 pm:

    It’s amazing how successful and aggressive that IN is in bringing jobs to that state. It’s equally amazing how inept IL is in doing the same thing. Navistar is a victim of local ineptness, it appears, but the lack of urgency on the IL economic crisis is statewide. Look at the lack of political leadership on the Tenaska project in Taylorville, for example. Thousands of jobs for central Illinois, and the project seems to be moving very slowly. Shameful.

  46. - rick - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 5:12 pm:

    Maybe dupage dan can put his money where his mouth is and entice them to downers grove. Go for it dan.

  47. - wordslinger - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 5:49 pm:

    Somebody at Navistar really likes Lisle, huh? Would the quality of life be so different five miles down the road? My guess is that some big foots in corporate really likes the site.

    What would some of you have? The local governments quick take the property for economic development, like the Supremes allowed a while back?

    From the way some of you talk, Indiana is the Shanghai of the Midwest, just unbridled, laissez-faire economic growth.

    I have business in and drive around Indiana a lot. I’m not seeing the paradise.

  48. - Plutocrat03 - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 7:15 pm:

    Due process is a good thing. Irrational NIMBY opposition is another.

    Navistar would have been a great corporate citizen providing real jobs with benefits to many people. Illinois needs a hundred Navistars. How else will the State grow their way out of the hole we are in?

    After the abuse they have taken, I would not blame them for moving to Indiana or Wisconsin.

    Hope those people like their fast food jobs, ’cause that’s all they will get.

  49. - PFK - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 8:38 pm:

    DuPage Dan, by the time they appeased the school, they had already needlessly created a p.r. nightmare for themselves. The community had legitimate concerns that could have easily been anticipated and addressed. Instead, they just let the whole thing blow up on them, and by that time, it made it impossible to fix their PR problems. For instance, instead of it clearing the way, the deal they cut with the school just made people suspicious.

    It was bad planning, bad public relations, and they got greedy with incentives that local pols were all too eager to dish out.

    Navistar really went about it the wrong way. Corporations should look at this as a case of what NOT to do to win over a community. They should have anticipated the concerns of the school, and if the forest preserve land was essential, they shouldn’t have tried to get it for free, and should have at offered to swap it for some something equivalent or better. They should have done more to anticipate and address the noise and emissions concerns up front.

    Navistar could still pull it off, but they’re going to have to find a way to start over with the nearby residents. Given what we’ve seen from them, I doubt they have the skills to pull it off.

  50. - mouse - Friday, May 28, 10 @ 7:52 am:

    This is the second time Navistar abruptly cancels the public hearing process right before a slew of experts hired by the neighbors was to take place. This project was days from approval. All Navistar had to do was go thru the process. This is the same “process” that Mayor Broda said “had” to take place before he would even speak to the neighbors. So, as a neighbor, I say, bring it on.
    We are all waiting to show you all the facts and data about the so-called good neighbor who wants to shove an industrial engine and truck testing center dozens of requests for zoning relief right into an office corridor, 100 feet from the forest preserve. Bring it on. It would seem Navistar is just afraid of their own past actions and the rebuttal witnesses that are lined up. It must be something big, becasue this campus in Lisle is quite the deal. Cost over 250M to build, Nav swoops in with an offer of 34M right when it listed.

    Why else would the elephant be afraid of the mouse?

  51. - Anonymous - Friday, May 28, 10 @ 7:59 am:

    Remember the message Navistar had in March … that first plan was just a “mistake”

    “mistake” Great PR guy thought of that brilliant idea. The neighbors shoudl sue Lisle and Navistar for all their legal costs of the “mistake”.

    Like you said PFK, Navistar made horrible decisions every step of the way.

    Project JANE… What were they thinking? What were they hiding? Oh yeah - they were hiding 66
    engine testing cells and superpolluter status.

    Scale back.. what a joke.

    Let’s scale back the oil leak in the Gulf - if it were half as bad would it be OK?

  52. - Senator Dillard - Friday, May 28, 10 @ 3:06 pm:

    jon,I supported the bid to have Navistar move to Lisle. I voted for the EDGE tax credits and recently was at a “victory” reception hosted by the Lisle Chamber with the Giant Steps Autism School(I sponsored the law creating it) and the leadership of Navistar. My concern were the children of the autism school and we were able to take care of their concerns and they supported the move….so I supported the plan. A different group of concerned citizens were extremely vocal and forced Naistar to pull out…which is a terrible job killing loss for Lisle. If moving further west is an option, I’m all for it.Illinois should not give up and I hope the Quinn Administration and DuPage County are still pursuing Navistar…a company with a rich and distinguished Illinois pedigree. Sen. Kirk Dillard

  53. - Lisle Resident - Monday, May 31, 10 @ 7:54 am:

    So Sen Dillard - who was the “victory” of?
    Defeat of your Constituants?
    Perhaps you did not know about how Navistar “cohersed” your little school? Perhaps we should subpeona you too?

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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* Scouting report: Oakland A's at White Sox
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* Indians' Corey Kluber dominates White Sox

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