A look at some of the manufacturing companies in the Tri-Cities' industrial parks
If out-of-town friends asked what your community is best known for or what is "made" there, what would you tell them?
Maybe a better question would be, do you know enough about your hometown to answer that question?
You could answer your friends in many ways, with an obvious one being the Fox River. But is St. Charles best known for the Arcada Theatre or something like its large, packaged meats plant?
Is Geneva best known for the Third Street retail district or a company that enhances the flavor of things we eat? Is Batavia best known for Fermilab research or its impressive downtown Riverwalk?
It's fun to tell others about our new restaurants and stores, concerts venues, or schools. These things are important for creating common bonds in a community.
But to get an accurate read on your community, it's impossible to overlook the industrial parks where so many people work to build or distribute products or research the development of new technology. Many folks outside of our towns know the Tri-Cities as a key location for whatever industry they are in.
The vast majority of my columns focus on entertainment, dining, schools and interesting people. But this week, it will be a primer of sorts about our industrial parks.
We should all know what some of these companies do and how important they are in defining who and what we really are here in the Tri-Cities. Plus, you learn exciting things.
"The first manufacturing business on the east side of Batavia in 1964 was Walker Muffler, and now that building is just a small part of the huge Suncast complex out there," said Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke.
"More than 100 industries operate on Batavia's east side, with an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 jobs out there," Schielke added. "And that's not including the 1,500 or so employees who work at Fermilab."
Roughly 5 percent of the St. Charles city limits is zoned for manufacturing, with much of the city's industrial parks being on the east side, city planner Rachel Hitzeman confirmed.
We should also note that between 14 and 16% of the population of the Tri-Cities is employed by manufacturing businesses, according to data categorized by ZIP codes.
We all have pretty good recognition of the extensive operations, like Fermilab, Aldi food store or Suncast plastics headquarters in Batavia. Or we may know that the massive Smithfield Foods Inc. complex along Kirk Road in St. Charles is a consumer packaged meats company located at the former Swift site.
Others aren't as recognizable. In the St. Charles industrial area, Lechler operates as a manufacturer of precision spray nozzles for various businesses, including firefighting equipment, while MPI Microplastics manufactures plastics and molded components.
Nidec Mobility is a household appliance and electronics good wholesaler.
Did you know that Tiger Drylac, on Swenson Avenue, creates polyester-based antiskid finishes for things like metal staircases, catwalks and elevator floors? Or that StrataTac, also on Swenson, produces advanced coating technologies?
FONA International, located in Geneva and Batavia, represents one of the most interesting operations as a creator and producer of flavors for many of the world's largest food, beverage, and nutritional companies.
In Geneva and Batavia, MSI Express helps companies resolve manufacturing and packaging challenges.
And what would we do without Murnane Specialties in Geneva? This company is involved in paper packaging for food, cosmetics, pet care and other retail or wholesale products. When you open a box of assorted candy, there's a good chance Murnane created the soft pads that sit atop the treats.
Miner Enterprises in Geneva creates draft gears and connectors for trains, among other engineering products, so this company plays a significant role in keeping our trains moving.
Agco Parts in Batavia features farm equipment and other machinery and tools. At the same time, Byus Steel delivers fabricated structural metal, and steel processor Bar One Specialty Steel also operates in the city.
One area golfers likely know is Batavia's Tour Edge, a longtime local manufacturer of golf clubs.
The list could go on and on, but you get a general idea. We have highly diverse industrial regions here.
There aren't many "Hiring Now" signs on these buildings, like you would see along retail strips, but these businesses are always looking for employees because they face the same supply chain and hiring issues as any other hiring sector these days.
Mostly, it's good to know what these companies do and why the industrial zones are, in many ways, the lifeblood of our towns. St. Charles, for example, brought in 24 percent of its property tax revenue in 2020 from the industrial parks.
That means we want these areas to continue thriving.
They may not be as fun to read about or think about, but without them, the cities along the Fox River wouldn't be close to what they are today.
Geneva High School graduate and triathlete Kevin McDowell, who won a silver medal at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, will be inducted into the high school's Athletic Hall of Fame. The city of Geneva will also honor him with a dedicated street sign.
- Courtesy of Kevin McDowell
Triathlete McDowell hits the trifecta
Kevin McDowell of Geneva has hit an exciting trifecta as far as local athletes go.
First, he's most recognized for winning an Olympic silver medal in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, earning that medal as part of a foursome competing in the Mixed Relay Triathlon. He had finished sixth in the men's individual triathlon event.
His success marks the first Geneva High School athlete to win an Olympic medal.
Second, he didn't fare too bad as a high school athlete either, earning all-conference honors all four years in cross country and an Academic All-Conference honor as both a junior and senior.
As a sophomore, he finished 14th in the state cross-country meet, helping Geneva land a third-place finish in Class AA.
The school will honor him into the school's Athletic Hall of Fame at halftime of the Friday, Feb. 11 boys' basketball game against Wheaton North.
And third, the Geneva City Council revealed late last year that it planned to create a "dedicated street sign" with McDowell's name on it, welcoming people into the city as "the home of Kevin McDowell."
Not a bad sequence of events for the 29-year-old McDowell. By the way, did we note that his finish in the individual triathlon was the highest ever for an American participant and his medal with the relay made him and teammate Morgan Pearson the first Americans to ever with a triathlon medal?
And then there's this. McDowell did all of this a decade after putting his triathlon training on hold to fight and beat Hodgkin lymphoma.
So, if you see this fellow's name on a street sign when coming into Geneva, you should know there's a significant amount of pride here in what McDowell has accomplished.
Bring on the eggs
Owners of the Egg House on St. Charles Road in Lombard are letting people know that they'll soon open a new site in Campton Hills.
The breakfast and lunch restaurant will operate out of Mel's Diner at 40W160 Campton Crossings Drive.
The target for opening is sometime in March, but it's not locked in as of yet. Owner Bonnie Ismaili plans to keep folks posted on social media channels.
A chocolate discovery
When it comes to snacks, especially those with chocolate involved, a discovery can quickly become a new addiction.
So it is with yours truly and chocolate-covered pretzels. Yes, I had never had one, at least that I could remember.
But I noticed a bag of these snack items at my son's house. After trying one, the love affair began. Like most food discoveries, you quickly see that these things are all around you at nearly every store.
For now, the preferred brand is one of those big bags that Costco is famous for, this one being Snack Factory's dark chocolate crunch pretzel crisps.