May 2023

Chicagoland’s economic development strategy? Creativity and collaboration

View of Oak Brook in DuPage County from near I-88 and Route 83

From “Chicagoland’s economic development strategy? Creativity and collaboration” – Daily Herald

By: Greg Bedalov – President & CEO, Choose DuPage

For Chicagoland, the change just keeps coming. As the region adapts to shifting supply chains and new ways of working, fresh disruptions — from technologies to economic trends — are pouring in from every direction.

So, in an era of relentless change, what’s the right economic development strategy? At Choose DuPage, we believe that it’s all about creativity and collaboration.

For a good example of this approach in action, let’s head to the golf course.

Until recently, Pheasant Run didn’t seem like a place with much potential. After closing in 2019, the St. Charles golf course sat empty for several years.

Meanwhile, Chicagoland’s industrial real estate developers were facing a profound problem: There just wasn’t enough space. Vacancy rates were at an all-time low, rents were rising, and developers couldn’t find enough large parcels to meet demand.

Then, people started getting creative. While a golf course might not seem like the obvious choice for an industrial space, developer Greco/DeRosa saw potential. Now, the group is developing the unused land into a 1.5-million-square-foot industrial development, a big win for businesses and the St. Charles community.

Real estate expert Jim Adler of NAI Hiffman says that this is exactly the kind of creativity we need.

“There is an opportunity for developers and communities to figure out how all the puzzle pieces fit together,” he says.

Choose DuPage is helping supercharge this creative approach to economic development. Our organization works with municipalities, site selectors and real estate brokers to identify “Areas of Opportunity,” land that is ripe for redevelopment. We market these hidden gems to decision-makers, then help them navigate any issues that emerge along the way.

Limited space isn’t the only challenge that Chicagoland communities face. Today’s DuPage County businesses must contend with an ultralow unemployment rate of about 3.1%. Low unemployment may sound like a good thing — and it can be, for workers — but for businesses, it creates labor challenges.

Meanwhile, many employees continue working remote, which means that some offices are left empty and the future of commercial real estate remains uncertain.

There’s no catchall solution to these challenges. But Choose DuPage and other organizations are finding innovative ways to address them.

One of the most obvious but critical solutions is to foster an environment that is both business-friendly and people-friendly. That means actively working to create a climate that encourages businesses to come here and stay here. It also means that health, education, arts and culture — the things that really matter to people when choosing a place to live — are top priorities.

Choose DuPage brings together local leaders to focus on a well-rounded economic development strategy, one that accounts for the needs of businesses, communities and people alike. At the same time, we promote our business-friendly, people-friendly region — along with other key differentiators, like DuPage County’s robust transportation infrastructure and strategic location — to attract businesses and talent.

Promoting Chicagoland takes a village. Scratch that — it takes an entire region. In a historic move, Choose DuPage and DuPage County recently joined six other counties and the city of Chicago to form the Greater Chicagoland Economic Partnership. Together, we promote the region’s collective assets, driving investment and empowering Chicagoland to compete on a global scale.

It’s long been a passion of mine to work collaboratively with like-minded leaders and communities across the region.

This is about telling a new story: The story of Chicago and Chicagoland. A story that is optimistic, forward-looking and focused on the best of our community. Those of us who live, work and do business here know that this is a place with unlimited potential, and GCEP gives us a platform to share our story at a global scale.

It’s time for the rest of the world to see Chicagoland the way we do.

Learn more at ChooseDuPage.com/ready.

• Greg Bedalov is president and CEO at Choose DuPage.

About NAI Hiffman:  

NAI Hiffman is one of the largest independent commercial real estate services firms in the US, with a primary focus on metropolitan Chicago, and part of the NAI Global network. We provide institutional and private leasing, property management, tenant representation, capital markets, project services, research, and marketing services for owners and occupiers of commercial real estate. To meet our clients’ growing needs outside of our exclusive NAI Hiffman territory, we launched Hiffman National, our dedicated property solutions division, which provides property management, project services, and property accounting services across the country. NAI Hiffman | Hiffman National is an award winning company headquartered in suburban Chicago, with more than 250 employees strategically located throughout North America.

About Hiffman National: 

Hiffman National is one of the US’s largest independent commercial real estate property management firms, providing institutional and private clients exceptional customized solutions for property management, project management, property accounting, lease administration, marketing, and research. The firm’s comprehensive property management platform and attentive approach to service contribute to successful life-long relationships and client satisfaction. As a nationally bestowed Top Workplace, and recognized CRE award winner, Hiffman National is headquartered in suburban Chicago, with more than 250 employees nationally and an additional six hub locations and 25 satellite offices across North America.

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