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Navistar moving headquarters to Lisle

Friday, March 04, 2011

Navistar is making progress moving its international headquarters to west suburban Lisle. The move keeps Navistar in the area while creating hundreds of new jobs and filling a massive empty facility once owned by Lucent Technologies.

It is an amazing facility: Seventy-eight acres of office space on a campus in Lisle that has sat vacant for three years.

The state is thrilled to find a new owner for the property, and Navistar is excited to be able to move in. They are getting the property for less than 10 cents on the dollar compared to what they might pay elsewhere. But they also estimate they are adding more than $800 million of economic impact to the area.

The building stands out for miles around as the futuristic-looking glass structure with the huge satellite dish over the entrance. That's what the former owner Lucent Technologies wanted.

New owner Navistar, however, is more interested in the 1.2 million square feet of office space on the scenic, quiet 87-acre site in Lisle. In fact, it's part of what kept the company's headquarters and at least 2,600 jobs in Illinois.

"You can't build a campus like this anywhere for anywhere near the price we paid for this, and even though you might get more incentives, when you look at the whole picture, you really can't beat it," said Don Sharp, Navistar vice president.

In fact, cities from around the country were courting Navistar, hoping to lure the diesel engine and truck manufacturer to move. And they are moving, a few miles down the road from their current location in Warrenville. And they say they are keeping 2,200 white collar jobs here and adding at least 400 more.

Mike Skarr lobbied to keep Navistar in the area.

"The risk was, not only would we lose 1,400 new jobs, we'd lose 1,400 current jobs, which really would be devastating to lose an employer of that size," said Skarr, Choose DuPage CEO.

Instead the company is adding jobs both in Lisle and in Melrose Park, where they plan to renovate their existing plant into a high-tech testing facility. It's one of the biggest corporate real estate deals in the Chicago area.

The authority on such deals, Site Selection magazine, just ranked the region No. 1 in the country for attracting business.

"Sometimes Chicago doesn't make the front page like they do in the West Coast or the East Coast, but the numbers bear out, this is really a great business location," Skarr said.

After earlier complaints from some neighbors over initial plans to test diesel engines, it will now consist almost entirely of office space for engineering and new product design. And they are excited.

"We looked at downtown high-rises, and you couldn't get the same kind of atmosphere--the perfect environment," Sharp said.

Navistar says renovation work on the building should be done by late summer. That's when they expect to be able to fully move into their new headquarters. They also say they were very conservative when promising the state they would add 400 jobs. They hope to be able to add several hundred more than that as the plans go forward.

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