Winnebago County plans to build up the I-39 corridor

Published: Jun. 27, 2022 at 6:22 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Nearly $60 million in development has been shelled out for the I-39 corridor, but the buck doesn’t stop there.

Over the past decade, the area in Cherry Valley near Baxter Road welcomed major players like Berner Foods, Fedex and Amazon. Now a fourth company will set up shop.

Even though a tenant hasn’t been confirmed, Winnebago County has named the $30 million project. The Rock 39 Project, named after the industrial park itself, is about to take off.

“I-39 is the fastest growing industrial corridor probably in the entire state so logistically this is a great area,” said County Board Chairman Joseph Chiarelli.

Using taxpayer funding, the county put its focus near this corridor, building up water, sewer systems and roads, to make the spot prime for new business.

“People really like this area because of the improvements that were brought forward many years ago for a water system, road infrastructure and the ability to act quickly when developers come forward,” Chiarelli told 23 News.

Chiarelli says to attract business, the county must move fast. It just completed the Amazon project in 2021. Now Venture One Real Estate will take the helm again for this next adventure.

“The developer, Mark Goode, is in the process of a due diligence project right now with an end user in mind,” Chiarelli said.

Leaders say the key to success for this corridor is location.

“It’s difficult to compete with Wisconsin, so it’s far enough away from Wisconsin that you can compete pretty aggressively,” said Chris Dornbush, the County’s Director of Development Services.

Dornbush says Wisconsin, in some cases, gives land for free to businesses, so Illinois leaders have to be smarter.

“It’s great because you can hit 90 and go into Chicago, You can go in 88, you can go up to Madison, Milwaukee, so it’s a nice central point,” he said.

More than 300 jobs are expected to be generated through the Rock 39 project. Construction is expected to begin October 1 and finish by March 2024.

After this project the county will look to develop the south and west sides of Baxter. Chiarelli wants more affordable housing options as well as retail and grocery stores.

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