Josh Grodzin will tell you his job is connecting people. As director of business development for Elk Grove Village in Illinois, he wants to make sure that the city's manufacturing companies know the extent of the supply chain that is right in their own backyard.
Elk Grove Village, located adjacent to O’Hare airport, is home to the largest industrial park in the U.S. with over 62 million square feet. Over 3,600 business call this city home and it’s the second largest manufacturing workforce in the state.
However when Grodzin took over five years ago the vacancy rate was high at 13%. “My strategy was to create a business-friendly approach which meant that everyone at the economic development organization was trained on business practices and customer service,” Grodzin explains.
And that would be necessary as his staff knocks on the doors of its businesses to find out exactly what they need. “One business told me that in the 30 years they had been in the park, no one had ever knocked on their door,” Grodzin said.
The strategy is working as the city's vacancy rate dropped to 4.84% in the second quarter of 2016.
Given that personal relationships and networking is Grodzin’s style, he decided to create a large networking event called “Made in Elk Grove Manufacturing & Technology Expo” to ensure that companies knew the sourcing choices they had within the park.
Over 1,000 people attended the event in 2015, which also drew praise from the Governor Bruce Rauner.
“Let's be clear, we can't be a prosperous nation and we can't be a prosperous state unless we're making things here,” Rauner said at the Expo. “That's what you guys do so I'm all in for it. Elk Grove Village is going to boom — you are going to boom — with your mindset towards investment, growth, and job creation, you're going to thrive."
Grodzin echoes this sentiment. “I can get you customers. I can help you generate revenue,” he tells companies encouraging them to attend the Expo.
To ensure that connections made at the show continue, and to attract new business by providing resources, the city created BizHub.com. The site also offers to connect businesses to valuable partners in neighboring businesses.
This business-friendly atmosphere has been a benefit to Permatron, a manufacturer of custom air filters and air solutions. “We have definitely taken advantages of the opportunities of being located here,” explained Leslye Sandberg, president of Permatron.
Sandberg said the economic development department as well as the Chamber of Commerce are “very supportive of the manufacturing community.”
The support takes the form of encouraging companies within the park to do business with each other as well as directing companies to assistance with workforce training. There are a number of county and state programs to help area manufacturers find the skills they need and Sandberg has found the specialized tool and dye skilled workforce that she needs within the park as well as suppliers.
The city also has connections to the larger Chicago community. It is a partner of the Golden Corridor Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, an advanced manufacturing partnership that supports high school and college students in Chicago's northwest suburbs, and helps them discover rewarding careers in tech, manufacturing and engineering.
In fact Chicago offers unique opportunities to regional manufacturer as it is home to one of the national innovation institutes, the Digital Manufacturing & Design.
Regional resources are important as increasingly companies look at a location regionally rather than as a single city.
“Our perspective is not only regional but global as well,” says Grodzin. “In fact at our Expo last year I met someone from a Turkish manufacturing incubator and encouraged him to consider Elk Grove as an overseas location.”
Again Grodzin was successful. Eray Utucu, who is the managing director of EVE Group, is in the process of developing the Turkish Trade Center in the city that will include a comprehensive incubator program for Turkish- based manufacturers that will consist of 18 showrooms, office space and a large warehouse.