Pritzker sets aside $40 million for industrial growth

The state grants would be available for work on parcels of at least 200 acres.

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Gov. J. B. Pritzker

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Hoping to spur industrial job creation on large properties around Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Monday the state will offer $40 million in grants to support their development.

The new Megasites Investment Program will use money from the Rebuild Illinois capital improvement bond issue. It will offer grants of up to $5 million for costs typically incurred early in a project, such as site acquisition and cleanup, as well as road and utility improvements.

Eligible projects must be on sites of at least 200 acres, officials said. The smallest grants will be $250,000.

“This is an opportunity for public and private developers alike — including local governments and individual landowners — to prep for large economic development projects without uncertainties about the upfront costs,” Pritzker said in remarks prepared for Monday’s project announcement.

“We’re prioritizing projects in underserved areas conveniently located near population centers — so we can make sure Illinois workers see the impacts of these investments right away.”

Potential grant recipients must own or have an agreement to buy the property at the time they apply. The state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity will administer the program.

Pritzker was due to discuss the program at a Monday morning news conference in Pullman, where former industrial sites have been transformed into a busy center for a range of businesses accounting for more than 2,000 jobs. The companies include a Method soap factory, a Gotham Greens commercial greenhouse and distribution hubs for Whole Foods and Amazon.

Several long-vacant sites within Chicago could be eligible for the grants, including a 415-acre stretch along the South Side lakefront that was the site of the U.S. Steel South Works plant. Sources said other parcels on the Southeast Side, including some owned by the Illinois International Port District, also could meet the requirements.

A spokesman for Pritzker was asked if the Chicago Bears could apply for their proposed stadium and associated development in Arlington Heights. He said the Megasites program is limited to industrial development.

The former Allstate headquarters in Glenview is an example of a suburban project that could get help. Allstate has sold the 232-acre site to a developer that plans a warehouse complex.

Officials said the grants will make the state more competitive in growing fields, such as clean energy. Illinois has struck out so far in attracting a manufacturer for electric-vehicle batteries, despite putting in place a tax incentive to attract such businesses.

The grants could be used for brownfields or agricultural parcels that could be converted to industrial use.

A spokesman said a webinar about the program is scheduled for Feb. 21, and grant applications will be accepted through April 6.

Illinois also has adopted a tax incentive for manufacturers of microchips and semiconductors and associated component parts.

State government has several other tools to encourage business investment, including a tax credit known as EDGE that supports job creation and a High Impact Business Program that rewards substantial capital investments and job creation or retention.

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