AP NEWS

Can region duplicate 2018′s success?

January 4, 2019

Tim Nugent had a fantastic 2018.

The president and CEO of the Economic Alliance of Kankakee County had the pleasure of being out front on three occasions: two announcements of massive private investments are local manufacturing plants and the ribbon-cutting of the near Interstate 57’s 318 interchange.

In a nutshell, 2018 will not be duplicated in 2019. Everyone should know that 2018 was a spectacular and special year in terms of business development.

While exact financial figures were not released for CSL Behring’s 1.8 million-square-feet expansion at its 138-acre Bourbonnais Township plant, it will be in the billions and take an estimated 12 years to complete.

Nucor Steel recently broke ground on its $180 million expansion of its steel manufacturing operations in Bourbonnais. The site is expected to be ready for workers late this year.

The $46.3 million construction project, which created the new I-57 interchange in Bourbonnais, also was opened late last year. The project has helped establish about 1,200 acres as prime property for commercial and business development.

“There were certainly a lot of great announcements. I don’t know if we can top those, but we can capitalize on those investments,” Nugent said. “We have workers who will be coming here for those jobs. How do we make that work for us now?

“It’s great for us to become work hubs, but how do we become hub for residential growth as well?” Nugent asked.

Nugent said the expansions overshadowed other events such as the Urban Farmer purchasing and bringing back the closed Merisant manufacturing plant.

There have been others. Van Drunen Farms in Momence continues its rapid growth. Riverside Health remains active with hiring new workers.

But what will face Kankakee County in 2019? There are concerns.

What ultimately will unfold with the troubled Northfield Square mall? Can a buyer or at least an occupant be found for the vacant former Cigna building in Bourbonnais? Will construction ever take place at the proposed Ricky Rockets Fuel Center in Kankakee?

What might be the fate of the massive Sears and Kmart warehouses in Manteno as the future viability of Sears hangs in the air these first weeks of January?

“2018 was a big year, but we always looking for more. We are going to take the approach of capitalizing on these opportunities,” Nugent said.

•••

So, as the greater Kankakee County region works its way into the new year, a national look at employment trends for 2019 has found four key trends.

According to Allison & Taylor Reference Checking, of Rochester, Mich.-based workplace reference company, these are the anticipated trends in the U.S. workplace.

No. 1 — Employer surveillance of employees increases. That doesn’t sound good. The number of employees dedicated to monitoring their employees’ activities is growing, a function of the low cost of monitoring technology, the growing number of workers using work computers for personal use and the increase of employees leaking sensitive company information.

No. 2 — The modern workforce will become increasingly freelance. Freelance workers are growing at a rate of three times those of traditional workers. About 47 percent of working millennials (people born between 1981-2004) are working in some freelance capacity. At this current rate, by 2027 freelancers will make up the majority of the nation’s workforce.

No. 3 — Workplace abuse will continue to be an issue. A 2014 survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute identified 27 percent of survey responders as having current or past direct experience with abusive conduct at work.

No. 4 — Employers lag behind the trend of “Work-Life Balance.” While an employees’ pay has traditionally been a leading prerequisite for job seekers, a desire for workplace flexibility has dramatically increased in importance. Worldwide, only a third of all corporations offer this flexibility.

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