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Unsolicited advice

Wednesday, Feb 3, 2021

* Crain’s

The fate of a massive industrial park planned in Joliet that could employ as many as 10,000 people rests largely in the hands of the governor, who has the final say over a proposed bridge spanning Route 53 that’s essential to the development. It may be just a bridge, but it represents the hopes of pro-growth government officials and the fears of local residents fed up with heavy truck traffic originating from a pair of gigantic rail yards nearby. And the outcome of the standoff could be a turning point for a region that’s become one of the nation’s largest logistics hubs and, as a consequence, a key pillar of Illinois’ economy.

The bridge would connect the two intermodal terminals on the west side of Route 53 with the Compass Global Logistics Hub, a $1.9 billion warehouse project that Kansas City, Mo.-based NorthPoint Development plans to the east. It’s the linchpin: Without the bridge, the project doesn’t work.

Pritzker is caught in the middle. The proposal cleared a key hurdle in December, when the Joliet City Council approved it. But NorthPoint can’t move forward unless Pritzker allows the Illinois Department of Transportation to take over a key road from the village of Elwood.

The thoroughfare, Walter Strawn Road, would include the proposed bridge over Route 53. NorthPoint would cover the $20 million it would cost to construct the bridge. But it can’t build it right now because Elwood is adamantly opposed to Compass and is fighting the project in court.

It ain’t as simple as the story makes it out to be. Here’s Jordan Abudayyeh…

As Deputy Governor Christian Mitchell explained, the issue is not simply about this administration approving construction for a bridge. The Northpoint development is a complicated transaction that would require sign off from multiple municipalities, the people who live in these communities and their representatives in General Assembly. Gov. Pritzker prioritizes economic development in every region of this state and the administration would encourage the corporation to engage local municipalities and persuade them this is in the best interest of the people they serve, before asking the state to seize land from communities who have not been persuaded.

Local state legislators are opposed for numerous reasons, partly because the duly elected officials in Elwood are opposed. Also, the region is packed with these facilities and they don’t pay their workers very well.

* We’ve discussed this before

But this corporate valhalla turned out to be hell for the community, which suffered a concentrated dose of the indignities and disappointments of late capitalism in the 21st century. Instead of abundant full-time work, a regime of partial, precarious employment set in. Temp agencies flourished, but no restaurants, hotels, or grocery stores ever came, save for the recent addition of a dollar store. Tens of thousands of semis rumbled through Will County every day, wreaking havoc on the infrastructure. And as the town of Elwood scrambled to pave its potholes, its inability to collect taxes from the facilities plunged it into more than $30 million in debt.

If they have the money to invest in all that infrastructure, perhaps they should also pay and treat their workers better and allow for union representation. That would make it extremely difficult for Democratic legislators to oppose the plan. As it stands now, Elwood gets nothing except more problems.

…Adding… NorthPoint response…

Here are some details in response to your post on Compass Global Logistics Hub:

• The City of Joliet has already approved the annexation agreement, which has paved the way for the $2 billion investment. No action is legally required from any other municipality.
• The only thing required to begin construction is for IDOT to assume responsibility in taking over a 1.5 mile stretch of existing industrial road, part of which the state already controls.
• The bridge, which NorthPoint would cover the cos of building, is something the developer agreed to as a result of community-based solution to keep trucks off local roads.
• Without Compass, traffic problems will continue to persist. The growth of the BNSF and UP intermodals are the result of the increased popularity of the online shopping. That will bring more truck traffic – with or without Compass.
• Without Compass’ long-term planning solution, haphazard growth will continue with one-off warehouses and increased traffic problems on local roads.
• As the article states, the average salary of a worker at Compass would amount to $42,000 – higher than minimum wage even for the lowest paid jobs there.
• NorthPoint is not asking for any state incentives or TIFs and would bring 10,000+ permanent jobs to the Southland families and millions of revenue to the State during an economic downturn and a growing budget deficit.
• NothPoint and local unions have negotiated a PLA agreement, considered a model for future development that continues well after the construction of the buildings is complete.
• The Governor’s recent statement about issues with the One Central project is a mirror opposite of the NorthPoint’s approach: they want subsidies (NorthPoint doesn’t), they didn’t demonstrate need (NorthPoint did), they don’t have city approval for project (NorthPoint does).
• NorthPoint has a proven track record in Illinois: 1) a new $164 million light manufacturing facility at the site of the abandoned Republic Steel site on Chicago’s Southeast Side; and 2) a $312 million logistics center in Pontoon Beach.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Blake - Wednesday, Feb 3, 21 @ 10:08 am:

    Can’t the company find some mayor more interested in the warehouse? Why does it have to be Elwood?

  2. - Andersonville Right Winger - Wednesday, Feb 3, 21 @ 10:08 am:

    Hopefully State Rep. Larry Walsh Jr., who is from Elwood, has enough clout with the Governor’s office to stop this awful project

  3. - NorthsideNoMore - Wednesday, Feb 3, 21 @ 10:44 am:

    What Will co doesn’t need is 1000s more trucks jamming up the roads. Build three or four lane bridges over the Illinois river on I-55 and on I-80 over the Canal in Joliet before adding more truck traffic.

  4. - Stormsw7706 - Wednesday, Feb 3, 21 @ 10:46 am:

    Hope fully this project development gets placed on the backs of the developers. These warehouses typically hire temporary workers who don’t live in the communities they are located in. They drain local tax money better spent on schools, police and fire pensions, and local infrastructure not related to self serving development. My dad was a die hard old school Republican and he would be spinning in his grave at the thought of businesses demanding, extorting, or begging for public monies instead of standing on their own 2 feet. If they want the bridge let them pay for it. 20 million out of a 1.9 billion dollar project seems fair

  5. - Watcher of the Skies - Wednesday, Feb 3, 21 @ 10:47 am:

    ===Can’t the company find some mayor more interested in the warehouse? Why does it have to be Elwood?===

    Location is obviously important since it’s a trucking terminal, but moreover, the scale of this is enormous. This is not a “warehouse.” And this company’s track record in terms of promises kept and financial benefits to communities is disputed.

  6. - Donnie Elgin - Wednesday, Feb 3, 21 @ 10:50 am:

    =they don’t pay their workers very well=

    The marketplace of jobs/job seekers will help determine if they can attract and retain a quality workforce. With min wage going to $15/hour in the next few years the target of what is decent pay is more obvious. The last thing the developer needs is some sort of imposed prevailing wage regs. Limit those to public/municipal entities and their contractors.

  7. - Benjamin - Wednesday, Feb 3, 21 @ 10:51 am:

    @Blake: These companies like to talk about how they could go anywhere when they’re looking for tax breaks or exemptions, but the fact is these facilities are very geography-dependent. There are a finite number of locations that work for such a business.

    Elwood has been burned before by these logistics companies. I see why they’re against it, or at least against it until they can get some kind of deal sweetener.

  8. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Feb 3, 21 @ 10:52 am:

    ===The last thing the developer needs===

    Welp, then they’re outta luck.

  9. - SouthSide Markie - Wednesday, Feb 3, 21 @ 10:53 am:

    Another example why laws relating to economic development in Illinois should take a regional approach instead the municipal level approach that most such statutes employ. Local government in Illinois is too fractured to do otherwise without setting up competition between one small village and it’s close by neighbor.

  10. - North Park - Wednesday, Feb 3, 21 @ 11:01 am:

    If only IDOT had considered building some kind of truck-hauling expressway directly south of this site, Elwood wouldn’t have had to worry about truck traffic running north.

  11. - Annoin' - Wednesday, Feb 3, 21 @ 11:06 am:

    How about some historical reminders.
    When CenterPoint was rampaging through the area was anyone concerned? It did take forever to build that monstrosity of an exit/entraace ramp at the refinieries but better late than never.
    Maybe Elwood does not need more competition?

  12. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Feb 3, 21 @ 11:46 am:

    The Mayor of Joliet needs to be investigated by the FBI.
    A lot of backroom politics going on with him.

    Including, the Illinois State Police slowing down their investigation of the Mayor.

  13. - phocion - Wednesday, Feb 3, 21 @ 11:53 am:

    ==If only IDOT had considered building some kind of truck-hauling expressway directly south of this site, Elwood wouldn’t have had to worry about truck traffic running north.==

    Ah yes, the Illiana. Except the environmentalists and a few locals didn’t like that either. Pritzker is going to have to decide - does he want economic opportunity for the southland and its high number of economically distressed communities, or will he dither again because there isn’t 100% agreement on something that on balance is a major positive for Illinois.

  14. - DuPage - Wednesday, Feb 3, 21 @ 11:54 am:

    @- North Park - Wednesday, Feb 3, 21 @ 11:01 am:

    ===If only IDOT had considered building some kind of truck-hauling expressway directly south of this site, Elwood wouldn’t have had to worry about truck traffic running north.===

    That might work, as long as the company, and not the state pays for it.

  15. - thisjustinagain - Wednesday, Feb 3, 21 @ 12:31 pm:

    If it’s not the mythical third airport, it’s the Illiana Expressway. Millions already wasted on studies, never to be built. The third airport was doomed from the beginning, because neither cargo nor passenger airlines wanted it, or would help pay for it. Illinois couldn’t (and still can’t afford it’s half of the Illiana. How many taxpayers want to pay for either??….(crickets). How many businesses will pay their fair share for infrastructure improvements that improve the viability and longevity of the businesses?…..(crickets). $20 million for a bridge is one thing, how about the roads being chewed up by the volume and weight of truck traffic to and from the bridge?

  16. - Chris - Wednesday, Feb 3, 21 @ 1:12 pm:

    “ If they have the money to invest in all that infrastructure, perhaps they should also pay and treat their workers better and allow for union representation.”

    Does the developer use non-union construction labor?

    It’s the developer offering to pay for the bridge, but the (future) tenants who have the questionable practices with the “warehouse” workers, so that comment—while well made—isn’t actually directed at the correct constituency.

    And, in most cases, after the developer gets a building completed, they sell it to another entity in the business of owning industrial buildings—another entity that isn’t employing any of the subject warehouse workers.

    Doesn’t really change the issue, which is multilayered, of course.

  17. - Proud Veteran Daughter - Wednesday, Feb 3, 21 @ 1:31 pm:

    Dozens and dozens of veterans have united to fight NorthPoint and Joliet to protect Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery from semitrucks sadly — literally — rolling over veterans’ graves. The plaintiffs in the Stop NorthPoint lawsuit include Medal of Honor, Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart recipients and other veterans and veteran families. A vote for NorthPoint is a vote against veterans.

  18. - Merica - Wednesday, Feb 3, 21 @ 1:35 pm:

    Elwood and Crest Hill, two peas in the same pod. They want economic growth only if they can pick it. The only economic growth they want is retail (they want the taxes). The market says otherwise. The Joliet area is tabbed to be the largest warehouse development in the country. Good things come with that, and bad things come with it, but that’s the way it is. if Joliet doesn’t do it, somewhere in Indiana and/or Missouri will do it. With warehouses come trucks, lots of trucks. they have already taken over I-55 and I-80. but what is there to do? no one is coming to shop and brick and mortar stores in Elwood. We’ve chosen to buy it on Amazon instead.

  19. - No to NorthPoint - Wednesday, Feb 3, 21 @ 1:55 pm:

    The people who live throughout the impacted area have been fighting against NorthPoint since a whistle-blower revealed the project plans in 2017. Myriad groups, including schools, veterans, environmental organizations, fire departments, and townships have issued resolutions against this project. In addition, the federal government has said that they have plans to expand Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery and there would be a problem with this proposed bridge location. It’s a travesty that any politicians who have been elected to represent the people, would consider supporting this project and this bridge. It would devastate the entire area and dishonor the veterans’ cemetery by placing it adjacent to a 24/7 truck bridge.

    Also, I would like to make two points about those promised warehouse jobs. First, they’re already here. There are already warehouses throughout Will County and they’re constantly hiring. They can’t keep the jobs filled. Second, the future of the warehouse industry is automation… and that future is not far off. Why would Will County sell off the safety and well-being of residents for empty promises from an out-of-state developer? I applaud Elwood for listening to the people. Elwood has every right to say no and other entities should respect that.

  20. - Rachel Ventura - Wednesday, Feb 3, 21 @ 1:58 pm:

    This project will only cause Joliet to be more impoverished as the long term jobs are not living wage jobs. The negative impacts on residents has been documented in several public meetings that local officials ignore because of pay to play tactics. The Governor needs to make the right decision here and shut this project down!

  21. - Citizen Kane - Wednesday, Feb 3, 21 @ 2:00 pm:

    Those truckers, and their companies, can go use Arsenal Road. Bringing them within sight and sound of the 2nd Largest National Cemetery in the Country cannot be allowed. Especially, when those truckers and their companies have already *literally* driven over the graves of dead veterans at the cemetery when they were finding a place to turn around.

  22. - -Location matters- - Wednesday, Feb 3, 21 @ 2:04 pm:

    Location of the bridge and development isn’t appropriate in the area. Put these developments like this by the interstates not 10 miles away from the closest interstate! It doesn’t make sense. It will be 5 times the size of Midway airport if not more. The area is currently farmland and has Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery very near the bridge location and Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. Protect the Gems and farmland. Keep it by the interstates.

  23. - Bear3 - Wednesday, Feb 3, 21 @ 5:36 pm:

    No discounts or lower taxes from local unless the State wants to give the dollars as it impacts local governments and schools and trying to navigate I 80 and I55. The business should be changed a premium not a rebate. Jobs are not union and transient with agencies that rent people. I do not appreciate what this does to local business and Amazon made 143 billion in 4th quarter and no taxes as Weather tech in bollingbrook.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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