Joliet state of the city: More economic development, job growth on tap in 2017

2/16/2017, 6 a.m.
Joliet had a pretty good 2016 and 2017 doesn't look too bad either according the city's Mayor Bob O'Dekirk in ...
Joliet Mayor Bob O'Dekirk delivers the state of the city address. Photo by Brock A. Stein

Joliet state of the city: More economic development, job growth in 2017

By Brock A. Stein

According to Joliet’s Mayor Bob O’Dekirk, 2016 was a pretty good year for Joliet in terms of economic growth, job creation and housing construction. 2017 could be even better.

The numbers back him up. The city issued 263 new home permits in 2016, a 46% increase over the previous year. The city also issued commercial permits for over 438,000 square feet of commercial space, a 246% increase over 2015 and a valuation of over $75 million. Add to that, over 3 million square feet of industrial space that was also issued permits at a value of $134 million dollars.

All told the city added just over $438 million in property value through the permits issued in 2016.

“The city is moving in the right direction,” said O’Dekirk as he delivered his state of the city address before a chamber of commerce audience Monday.

It showed in an equalized accessed value—a property value measurement—that jumped up 4.72% last year, the first increase in the city since the economic downturn took hold in 2009.

That added value will help offset gaming revenue which has settled at around $18 million, down from a high of about $24 million in 2010.

And, despite paying $14 million for the Evergreen Terrace housing complex last year, the city is also still sitting on a reserve fund of over $50 million.

“The recovery has been slow in Joliet, but the recovery is here,” said O’Dekirk.

That recovery includes the addition of two Amazon.com fulfillment centers as well as new facilities from IKEA, Georgia Pacific and Mars among others. O’Dekirk acknowledged the sabre metrics-like impact of valuing the “singles and doubles” as much as the “home runs” in the economic development recovery of the city as well noting, “every week we’re at ribbon cutting somewhere in Joliet” of small businesses he said.

The Amazon.com fulfillment centers alone have brought 3500 new full- and part-time jobs to the area he said.

Another new business, Cadence Premier Logistics will also house its corporate headquarters in Joliet said O’Dekirk adding a new layer of diversity to the jobs being created and “proof that we can sell Joliet as a destination for corporate headquarters.”

With the growth will be a need for more infrastructure and community investment said O’Dekirk noting that the first major piece of the plan will be a public/private partnership to build a new $180 million Houboldt Road bridge to relieve the traffic congestion on Route 53 heading to the CenterPoint intermodal warehouse sites.

O’Dekirk said the city also plans to invest in the city’s downtown and areas to the east along Cass and Collins Streets with the creation of two special taxing districts near St. Joseph Hospital and the special service area near the downtown. Those projects will coincide with major investments in the city include a new $200 million courthouse, train station, and two planned brew pubs.

The mayor also mentioned a couple of big projects that may get started this year with the resurrection of a 264 acres commercial development at the intersection of I-55 and I-80 by Cullinan Properties. Concept plans for the development include a multi-purpose facility that can be used for shopping and other mixed-use business uses as well as a residential component with around 700 units. The project could create 5,000 jobs; around 8,000 construction jobs and have an economic impact of $1.4 billion said O’Dekirk

“This is a development that’s going to have a regional impact,” said the mayor who noted that the state is also preparing to invest in a new interchange near the site.

The mayor also hinted at a “significant project on the east side of Joliet” that he called “tenuous” but said he was planning to travel to Washington in the next two months to “seal the deal.”

“It’s long overdue in the city,” said O’Dekirk of the mystery project.