DECATUR – Juan Luciano sees development of the Midwest Inland Port as an example of how innovation is being embraced in Decatur.
Luciano, president and CEO of Archer Daniels Midland Co., sees further opportunities to change the economic outlook for Central Illinois.
“You can truly feel the momentum building,” Luciano said Friday during an event at Richland Community College to officially launch a marketing effort for the port. “This is a moment to start thinking bigger about the possibilities in Central Illinois.”
To enhance the possibilities for change, Luciano said ADM plans to support business growth in Decatur. He announced the company's $2 million investment in the National Foodworks Services project being developed in the former Brush College School.
The investment will help transform the school into a food incubator with state-of-the-art equipment that fits with ADM's focus on developing products using healthy ingredients, Luciano said. National Foodworks can lead the way in the transformation of Central Illinois into a preeminent center for food and beverage innovation in the Midwest and perhaps the nation, he said.
Luciano said ADM will further be launching a food and beverage challenge to move entrepreneurial ideas off the drawing board and onto the plates of consumers.
Gov. Bruce Rauner supports the efforts of ADM and other companies in Decatur to enhance development opportunities for the area.
“It's an exceptional opportunity,” said Rauner, who met with members of the Midwest Inland Port Strategic Development Coalition before a presentation to a group of business and community leaders. “It's got incredible potential,” Rauner said.
Rauner said changing the culture in Springfield will benefit pro-business growth efforts. Bad state government policies have not helped Decatur, he said.
“We're going to change that,” Rauner said. “Today is a key step in that process. We have every reason to thrive in Illinois.”
The concept of the Midwest Inland Port was first introduced two years ago when ADM's intermodal rail facility opened. Since then, efforts have been under way to advance the attractiveness of the Midwest Inland Port, which includes utilizing Decatur's rail, air and highway infrastructure to connect products to destinations around the world, said Larry Altenbaumer, executive director of the Midwest Inland Port.
Companies can benefit from being located and doing business in Decatur, he said.
“Something big is happening here,” Altenbaumer said.
In its marketing efforts, ADM has emphasized the ability to provide access to any market anywhere in the world at anytime, said Scott Fredericksen, president of ADM Transportation.
“It's a strong selling point,” Fredericksen said. “In eight or 10 years, we will look back at the establishment of the Midwest Inland Port as a turning point for the region's economy. We believe the Midwest Inland Port can be a catalyst to ensure Decatur continues to be a great place.”
Other companies, including Ameren Illinois and Decatur Memorial Hospital, have indicated their support for Decatur's development efforts. Ameren Illinois plans to make a $24.5 million investment in local infrastructure improvements so utilities can be seen as a selling point, said Ron Pate, Ameren Illinois senior vice president, operations and technical services.
Businesses from outside Decatur, including Clayco, OmniTRAX, Inc. and Canadian National railway, have joined the partnership efforts for the development. Clayco, which is a partner in about 40 projects a year, including the State Farm Center at the University of Illinois, sees an opportunity to be involved in the Midwest Inland Port partnership, said Kevin McKenna, Clayco executive vice president.
As Clayco becomes more involved in projects, McKenna said it works with local labor unions.
“We see opportunities for them in these projects,” McKenna said. “We want to make sure to get them involved.”
All of it adds up so what's being talked is real, said Ryan McCrady, Economic Development Corporation of Decatur and Macon County president.
“What we have to sell is a real thing,” McCrady said. “We have big things to come here in this community as long as we don't set any obstacles, and we're not going to do that.”
McCrady said concrete efforts can be seen as the focus remains on the job growth that can move the community forward.