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Rochelle’s smart, can-do attitude

Wednesday, Oct 11, 2017


The economic lifeblood of this rural whiz-by of a town is frozen French fries. And bacon. And fabricated steel, ethanol, hydroponic tomatoes, the production of passenger cars for METRA.

About 16,000 freight cars roll through each year, picking up and delivering grain and other goods. Soon, boutique whiskey distilled in a onetime downtown theater will also be added to the local gross domestic product.

And just maybe, someday in the not too distant future gleaming new Toyotas and Mazdas could come rolling off a production line that Illinois hopes will be built on what is now 1,000 acres of corn and soybeans.

Tiny Rochelle, 80 miles west of Chicago at the intersection of Interstates 88 and 39, is on an industrial roll, blissfully ignoring a common narrative among political and business elites that economically maligned Illinois is circling the toilet bowl. […]

Jason Anderson, who heads Rochelle’s business development agency, says the supposed bad rep of Illinois hasn’t hobbled recruitment efforts a bit.

“No one we’ve dealt with has ever brought that up,” said Jason Anderson, who leads the Greater Rochelle Economic Development Corporation (GREDCO), which has attracted companies like Nippon Sharyo, Boise Cascade, Tyson Foods, and Hormel. The town is also home to a 1,200 acre intermodal rail park run by Union Pacific, a shipping point that often sends goods to the Pacific Rim.

To see how they did it, click here and read the rest.

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- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - anon2 - Wednesday, Oct 11, 17 @ 9:52 am:

    It’s almost unbelievable that Rochelle could attract so much new industry despite Madigan.

  2. - Anon - Wednesday, Oct 11, 17 @ 9:57 am:

    If I was Rochelle t brag about Nippon that place looks like a ghost town and has laid off most of its employees

  3. - Anon - Wednesday, Oct 11, 17 @ 9:58 am:


  4. - Foster brooks - Wednesday, Oct 11, 17 @ 10:07 am:

    They are trying to line up a toyota plant…stay tuned

  5. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Oct 11, 17 @ 10:07 am:

    Infrastructure and an educated labor force are big deals in economic development.

    Analyze Rauner’s actions a d lack-of as governor in that light.

  6. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Oct 11, 17 @ 10:22 am:

    I honestly spit out my coffee on the train when I read the hedline. “Boom town”?? Rochelle is losing population. Almost no one is building here. Homes aren’t selling. And Nippon Sharyo is close to collapse. This is insulting boosterism masquerading as policy research. BGA missed the mark by a mile here.

  7. - NoGifts - Wednesday, Oct 11, 17 @ 10:24 am:

    Not every town is on an interchange of I-88 and has a railroad. What Rochelle has done can’t be accomplished everywhere.

  8. - Plutocrat03 - Wednesday, Oct 11, 17 @ 10:37 am:

    Bravo, can do attitude.

    Plant location involves many many variables. In Rochelle’s case the local benefits exceed the negative drag from the state.
    Other communities need to amplify their efforts without resorting to evicerating tax giveaways. OTOH, if the State could start addressing its negative overhangs like workers comp cost, that would help replicate Rochelle’s success and acellerate new revenue sources.

    Growth is the only way out of Illinois’ revenue problems. So far all we see out of Springfield is more taxation, protection of the status quo and envy of those who make more.

  9. - OneMan - Wednesday, Oct 11, 17 @ 10:41 am:

    Having camped out there with the scouts a couple of times I can say the intermodal yard is busy (you can hear the horns when they grade cross outside the facility)….

    It is also, of course, the setting for that Bette Midler musical Rochelle, Rochelle…

  10. - Anon Downstate - Wednesday, Oct 11, 17 @ 11:28 am:

    “Not every town is on an interchange of I-88 and has a railroad. What Rochelle has done can’t be accomplished everywhere.”

    Not just I-88 interchange. It’s I-88/I-39, plus fairly direct access to NIU within 30 minutes, plus a full intermodal rail facility.

    If the locals had the vision, they could pull off the same thing in Mt. Vernon, IL. They have the rail lines, just need the intermodal rail yard.

  11. - NoGifts - Wednesday, Oct 11, 17 @ 11:35 am:

    Anon Downstate - right you are on all counts. Location, location, location.

  12. - Joe M - Wednesday, Oct 11, 17 @ 11:57 am:

    Not just one major railroad - Rochelle has two major lines: BNSF and Union Pacific. About 80-90 trains a day go through Rochelle.

    And as already mentioned, not one Interstate but two: I-39 as a North/South route. I-88 as an East/West route.

  13. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Oct 11, 17 @ 12:06 pm:

    I grew up near Rochelle in the 60s. It was always easy to find a job even then. Del Monte has two canning plants plus their Midwest headquarters in Rochelle back then, plus a huge distribution center. Swift had a big meat packing plant (now Hormel I believe) Stokely Van Camp had a canning plant. Caron Spinning was a big yarn producing plant. Morgan Dye had a plant that dyed the yarn.

    But then Del Monte downsized its Rochelle operations - and Swift plant closed for a while (before opening back up as Dubuque Packing, then FDL Foods, and then Hormel). Both Caron and Morgan closed in the early 70s also. Stokely Van Camp closed. I remember reading back then that city officials laid out a plan to attract many businesses - rather than rely on a handful of major businesses like they had before. It seems to be working.

  14. - Just Me - Wednesday, Oct 11, 17 @ 12:13 pm:

    Metra is not an acronym.

  15. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Oct 11, 17 @ 12:16 pm:

    No baseball threads this October? There are teams other than the Cardinals and White Sox…

  16. - DuPage - Wednesday, Oct 11, 17 @ 12:28 pm:

    The railroads had originally wanted to expand intermodal yards in the Chicago suburbs but were met with a lot of NIMBY resistance. They are way better off in Rochelle. The land is cheaper and there is less freight theft then some other freight yards. Englewood,(63rd and State) etc. Also, once the containers are off the train, the trucks can get on the interstates and make good time because they avoid the long traffic delays of Chicago rush hours and congestion.

  17. - Huh? - Wednesday, Oct 11, 17 @ 12:47 pm:

    If they had a river port and they would have the trifecta of heavy bulk shipping.

  18. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Oct 11, 17 @ 12:49 pm:

    DuPage, there was plenty of NIMBY back in the day to the Rochelle intermodal in DeKalb and Ogle counties, mostly about trucks jamming up and degrading 38 and 251.

    But railroads have old school federal powers, and generally get their way when they want it.

  19. - Six Degrees of Separation - Wednesday, Oct 11, 17 @ 1:20 pm:

    DuPage and Word-

    The original intermodal proposal was for Maple Park (on the DeKalb/Kane border), which would have set the location much more favorable for the Chicago distribution market. The main disadvantage for Maple Park was lack of good highway access (which the former “Prairie Parkway” proposal would have met) plus local opposition and Kane County’s long-standing desire for western Kane to remain agricultural. The railroads may have “old school federal powers” but they generally can’t condemn land for any purpose other than building a new railroad track, where roads, utilities and industrial space are also needed.

    Rochelle is a great success story all things considered, and its Global III was the first distribution center to break the stranglehold of intermodal transfer in the Chicago region, but it is way under-utilized compared to the newer and closer facilities in Will County. And the local opposition to development in Rochelle was more than counterbalanced by the strong local and county governmental support at the time.

  20. - Springpatch - Wednesday, Oct 11, 17 @ 1:53 pm:

    In addition to touting Rochelle, the article also conceals Springfield’s disastrous bets and costly mismanagement made through its municipal utility. It calls Springfield’s “electricity & water” a strength,and notes “risk averse” as a weakness. Totally backwards, the city’s utility is dragging the city down with a $500 million dollar bet on a coal plant to market wholesale power. It’s suffered multiple “technical” bond defaults, rate increases, along with a water supply system with decades of continually deferred maintenance.
    Having a few decades of decent city planning shouldn’t be underestimated.

  21. - igotgotgotgotnotime - Wednesday, Oct 11, 17 @ 2:26 pm:

    By an intermodal rail park, do they mean just like the one in the recently touted boom town of Joliet? Coincidence?

  22. - IllinoisBoi - Wednesday, Oct 11, 17 @ 2:38 pm:

    Did anyone notice this bit:

    “The sheer number of businesses calling Illinois home is up 28 percent since 2001, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That compares to 17 percent for Wisconsin, 8 percent for Indiana and 4 percent for Ohio. Michigan is down 9 percent.”

    Fake news I guess…

  23. - IllinoisBoi - Wednesday, Oct 11, 17 @ 2:45 pm:

    Did anyone notice this bit?

    “The sheer number of businesses calling Illinois home is up 28 percent since 2001, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That compares to 17 percent for Wisconsin, 8 percent for Indiana and 4 percent for Ohio. Michigan is down 9 percent.”

    Fake news, I guess.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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