In a few years, some central Illinois businesses will pack products to travel to the airport – and they likely will arrive at their destination by train.
The Central Illinois Regional Airport (CIRA) recently started design work that will lead to the installation of new municipal water and sanitary service for the development of a new 250-acre multi-modal business park on airport property. The Bloomington Normal Airport Authority, which owns the site, received a $1.25 million dollar grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity ‘s Megasites Investment Program to help fund the work. CIRA is investing an additional $1.75 million to complete this project, with hope to begin construction later this year.
“With the recent economic development taking place in the region, the airport authority sees the opportunity to attract new jobs and investment to this land as a benefit for our community,” said Carl Olson, executive director of the Bloomington Normal Airport Authority. “We recognized this property’s unique characteristics that give this site competitive advantages.”
The property is less than one mile from a substation owned by Corn Belt Energy, an electric cooperative that serves the region. An active rail line with a second track runs through the property, which businesses will be able to access with the infrastructure improvements. Rounding out the air and rail transportation component, the site also offers convenient access for trucks to and from multiple interstates heading north-south (Interstate 55) and east-west (Interstate 74).
“There’ve been plenty of manufacturers and distributors throughout the years who wanted to come into the area,” said Patrick Hoban, president and CEO of the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council. “Unfortunately, we’ve lacked available buildings.”
The economic development council partnered with the airport authority on the Illinois grant. The group also is working with Corn Belt and its wholesale power provider, Wabash Valley Power Alliance, to prepare the site for future energy needs.
“The development of the 250-acre regional airport property is a significant project that will have a transformative impact in our community and beyond,” Corn Belt Energy CEO Don Taylor said. “We eagerly look forward to the possibilities that arise from this project, and to welcoming businesses that will discover the great assets we have here in central Illinois.”
The site had until recently been part of the airport’s farm program, but the community’s recent industrial growth and the site’s attractive location led to new development interest. The site could be particularly appealing to businesses with unique energy demands, such as cold food storage, distribution and manufacturing, Olson said.
The infrastructure work is expected to start in the spring and finish by the end of 2024. The airport authority has started informal conversations with potential developers that may be interested in developing a business park.
“Modern manufacturing is harnessing technology and energy for automation to make it more cost effective,” Olson said. “Combine that with central Illinois’s outstanding transportation network, and we believe we have a winning recipe for significant community growth and prosperity. There’s a real opportunity for central Illinois to continue to blossom.”