Naperville is booming and hitting its post-recession stride, according to Christine Jeffries, president of the Naperville Development Partnership (NDP).
For instance, the new Water Street District with its Hotel Indigo, restaurants, retail and banquets has been opening gradually over the past year. Elements at Water Street: Reception Venue & Banquet Hall has seen a tremendous amount of business growth in the past year, particularly with weddings, and SixtyFour Wine Bar is already expanding its facility to make additional space for events.
“There has been a strong hospitality surge all over Naperville,” Jeffries said. “Naperville now boasts 250 restaurants and cafes and their retail sales are constantly increasing. More and more corporations, associations and sports organizations are now competing with weddings and other social events to book space in our venues.”
In addition, new businesses continue to open in the community. Andy’s Frozen Custard has opened its second location in Naperville with its new store on Ogden Avenue and the Patel Brothers Grocery Store is opening in the long-vacant 80,000-square-foot Menard’s/K-Mart structure at the intersection of Ogden Avenue and Jefferson Street. Patel Brothers is a national Indo-Pakistani grocery chain.
Naperville’s corporate community is also thriving. Nalco, a subsidiary of Ecolab, a global leader in water, hygiene and energy technologies and services that protect people and vital resources, has recently opened its “Water University” that will instruct people from all over the world about best practices when it comes to maintaining a clean water supply.
“Everyone values the importance of clean water,” Jeffries said. “That is an understanding that spans all social and political segments and those students will be occupying local hotel rooms and enjoying the dining options in Naperville, further enhancing its economic impact.”
In addition, Chervon, a Chinese firm that designs and manufactures a wide range of tools, including hand-held portable power tools and cordless outdoor power equipment and accessories, opened its North American headquarters and a research and development facility on Warrenville Road in late 2016. They expect to employ approximately 200 people at the Naperville location.
Finally, the Naperville Public Library and North Central College have both opened entrepreneurial accelerator programs that will act as incubators for new businesses. Important resources are available in each of these programs in order to assist entrepreneurs in getting their businesses off the ground, Jeffries said.
The NDP is a public/private economic development organization, founded in 1997, that fosters economic growth in the City of Naperville. It has been responsible for millions of square feet of new construction, large-scale absorption of existing commercial space and has participated in the crafting of planning and redevelopment guides for retail corridors and the downtown area of the city. The work of the NDP has resulted in thousands of new jobs and an exceptional vibrancy in the business districts throughout the city. It also worked closely with the City of Naperville to create the award-winning Transportation, Engineering and Development (TED) business unit.
What is the value of the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce to its Members and to the community at-large?
Over the past several months, Colin Dalough, the Chamber’s Director of Government Affairs and Business Development, has been studying the Chamber’s economic impact within the Naperville community in an attempt to quantify its value.
“We have been anxious to judge how much of an economic driver the Chamber is within the community as we help members pass leads to one another, receive leads and grow their businesses,” he said.
“We have been pleased to see how loyal our Members are to the Chamber and how much value they feel they are getting from their memberships,” Dalough said.
“The surveys indicated that our Members would rather shop with another Chamber Member than with someone who is not in the Chamber. In fact, 94.5 percent of survey respondents said they were ‘very likely’ or ‘likely’ to shop with a Chamber member over a non-member,” he noted. “That is phenomenal.”
The survey also revealed how diverse the Chamber’s membership is – ranging from small start-up businesses with one to five employees, to national companies. “This gives our members exciting opportunities to meet and get to know a wide variety of contacts whose businesses are all at different stages,” Dalough said.
“Through the survey, members revealed that they get between 12 and 24 leads per year through Chamber activities that generate between $20,500 and $119,500 per year in additional business for responding members,” he added. “That shows that members tend to receive tremendous value from their Chamber membership.”
In addition, according to the survey, Chamber members are pleased by the money that the Chamber spends locally on renting space, purchasing food and so forth, patronizing its members whenever possible.
“Overall, the survey indicated that the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce generates between $24.7 million and $140.8 million in added business for the community. That is a tremendous amount and these are real dollars, which shows that there is a long-term financial relationship between the work of the Chamber and the success of Naperville, in general, and its Members, in particular,” Dalough said.WiFi ParkAn outdoor internet park, tentatively dubbed The Jaycees SMART Park, may come to downtown Naperville’s Riverwalk sometime during 2018, bringing comfortable seating, shade structures, free Wi-Fi, electrical outlets and solar-powered USB outlets to the quarter-acre space between the Naperville Municipal Center and the Naperville Township building.
It is expected to be an ideal space for individual work or even group meetings.
“Nicki Anderson at the Chamber interviewed a number of millennials as part of a workforce development initiative the Chamber was conducting and a recurring message she heard was that millennials like to work remotely and there was no outdoor space in Naperville where they could access the internet and work or have outdoor connected meetings,” Chirico said.
“She came to me with the idea of doing something like this in Naperville and a number of us met to consider the options. This small parcel next to the Municipal Center seemed ideal,” he added, “so I brought up the idea at the State of the City address in March.”
After that, Chirico said, individuals, organizations and firms agreed to donate and help make the idea a reality.
The Naperville Jaycees came forward with a pledge of $200,000 (payable over the next decade) and received naming rights to the park. An anonymous donor donated $100,000. The Riverwalk Foundation offered up $50,000. WCP Solar, a private firm, pledged $25,000. Finally, a local resident, Dave Kelsch, put in $15,000, while the Exchange Club contributed $10,000.
“The fact that all of these groups and people readily came forward with funds means to me that the community really wants a park like this,” Chirico said. “So the City Council voted to draw $125,000 out of its Renewable Energy Fund to build a solar power plant on the roof of the Naperville Municipal Center. This project was a perfect fit for that fund.”
Since the idea was floated in March, plans have come together at a dizzying pace. An official boundary map, defining what is and is not part of the Naperville Riverwalk, has been created, using a Geographic Information Systems mapper.
Funds, which will be donated to the nonprofit Riverwalk Foundation, have been sought and pledges received. In addition, approvals have been received from the various governmental and nonprofit boards affected. The city has also agreed to maintain the park and some of the funds collected are expected to be given to the Riverwalk Foundation for future repairs.
Chirico indicated that he hopes to see the SMART park completed and attracting business groups and people who want to work or conduct meetings outside by the summer of 2018.
“The Jaycees SMART Park will be a legacy for this generation of Jaycees, meant to give back to the greater community,” Groat said. “It will truly be a gift that everyone in Naperville can enjoy.”
The Jaycees, which has a membership of approximately 100 people between the ages of 21 and 41, organizes the city’s annual Last Fling festival over Labor Day weekend and a Lobster Day event to raise money for city amenities in each decade.
It donated money in the 1980s for the Jaycees Marina along the Naperville Riverwalk, where people can rent paddleboats and kayaks, and in the 1990s it paid for the Jaycees Gazebo adjacent to Fredenhagen Park.
The group also donated funds to build the ADA-accessible park along the Riverwalk and has contributed funds to North Central College’s Wentz Concert Hall, the Naperville Municipal Band and the DuPage Children’s Museum.
“We see the Jaycees SMART Park as a great endeavor for us to become involved with because we expect that anyone in the community who wishes to do so will be able to sit out there and work for the better part of the year,” Groat said.