If Kenosha County has become the premier destination for capital investment, jobs, new business growth and talent in the Chicago-Milwaukee, the Kenosha Area Business Alliance, is the ever-driving engine that has powered the growth over the last several years.
Established in 1984, KABA, under the guidance of president Todd Battle for the past 16 years and his devoted cast of tireless professionals, the economic development organization has impressed business owners, awakened educators and become the band that has led the parade to a better Kenosha County.
KABA has helped to lure Haribo, a Bonn, Germany candy maker, helped to usher in Uline, one of the world’s most influential office supply and packaging companies, and attracted Amazon, the world’s largest e-commerce company. The list of business wins goes on.
It has created an atmosphere where many Illinois companies such as Nexus Pharmaceuticals, Trifinity Specialized Distribution, Toolamation and others have from across the border where they perceive the grass and the business growth is greener.
Along the way it’s been aided through partnerships with academic institutions, municipalities, financial institutions, state agencies such as the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development and other development organizations.
Last March, Battle told an audience of more than 350 at KABA’s annual meeting how Crown Brands, the Advocate Aurora Health Care facility and the Kings & Convicts Brewing Co., are also welcome additions headed to the area.
KABA has been the facilitator that has helped to mobilize developers, some of whom have built speculation facilities knowing that a company will come to lease the space.
A KABA team in partnership with Kenosha County, the city of Kenosha and others act somewhat as a welcoming committee helping prospective companies learn of the amenities and the business benefits.
They also learn how the local colleges, Gateway Technical College, Carthage College and the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, also are good educational facilities that help in the worker training process.
While it was busy attracting companies to relocate to Pleasant Prairie’s LakeView Corporate Park, Stateline 94 Corporate Park and the Business Park of Kenosha, KABA was the impetus that formed the partnership with Salem Lakes to develop the Salem Business Park.
It even had formed teams and launched programs such as the Life Balance website that touts the positive benefits of living and working in Kenosha.
And one of its newest projects is about to form. In January, KABA co-hosted the Workforce Housing Outlook: Needs & Strategies, a community development forum. The objective, according to KABA vice president Heather Wessling Grosz, is to bring more affordable single-family and multi-family units to accommodate the growing number of people who are moving here to take jobs in the these companies.
As KABA noted in its annual report, Kenosha County is experiencing a surge in development activity. Since 2013, major economic development wins include 10,635 jobs. 19 million square feet of development and $2.36 billion in capital investment.
Last year, at the Johnson Financial Group annual State of the Regional Economic Forum, Battle said while there was five million of square feet of industrial space under construction in 2018, there was more to come.
“There still is a lot of runway left,” he said, citing the old Chrysler site, downtown Kenosha and the former We Energies power plant in Pleasant Prairie.
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