Centegra Health System cleared two major hurdles this year in its efforts to build a hospital in Huntley. The hospital is projected to bring more than 1,000 jobs to the area and have a nearly $200 million economic impact.
Centegra first announced plans to build the $233 million hospital in December 2010. It had expected to start construction in October. But the project was delayed, in part, by a lawsuit from competitors Mercy Health System, Advocate and Sherman Health.
The lawsuit sought to overturn a state board's July 2012 approval of the Huntley project. The state's health facilities board had previously rejected Centegra's plan twice. The three competitors contended the state approval should be reversed because Department of Public Health staff concluded the proposal did not meet three of the state’s 20 standards. However, in November, a Will County judge sided with the state board, ruling the project will meet a future need in an area continuing to grow. Mercy and Advocate, which merged this summer with Sherman, plan to appeal. The appeal process could take up to 10 months, but shouldn't interfer with construction plans, Centegra officials said.
In December, the Huntley Village Board unanimously approved the final design for the five-story, 128-bed hospital. Construction likely will begin in March.
The project is the largest infrastructure investment in Huntley's history. Centegra has estimated the project will create 800 construction jobs and it expects to hire 1,000 employees to staff the hospital. The local economic impact from the construction, salaries and the purchase of medical equipment and furnishings is estimated at $197 million.
Month after month, the McHenry County's median home prices increased compared with prices from the same months in 2012, according to statistics from the Illinois Association of Realtors and the Heartland Realtors Organization, which serves McHenry County.
Through November, the county's median sold price was up 8.5 percent to $150,000, compared with a median of $141,000, during the same period in 2012. The increases marked the first substantial year-over-year gains since the housing bust. However, prices remain below peak pre-recession levels.
Sales have surged more than 30 percent this year. Through November, closed sales in McHenry County had increased 31.5 percent to 4,583, up from 3,485 sales in the first 11 months of 2012, according to the state association.
Homes also are spending less time on the market. Through November, days on market until sale was down 21.5 percent to 84, compared with 104 days in the first 11 months of 2012.
Another sign of the improving real estate market was the decline in foreclosures. Mortgage foreclosure filings declined 36.8 percent through October to 1,710, compared with 2,706 during the first 10 months of 2012, according to the latest figures available from the McHenry County Circuit Court Clerk's Office.
While many remain out of work in McHenry County, the area's jobless rate has fallen off in recent months. In October, McHenry County's unemployment rate dropped to 6.8 percent, its lowest level since December 2008, according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security. In November, the county's unemployment rate was 6.9 percent, down from 7.5 percent in November 2012. However, non-seasonally adjusted unemployment figures were much higher earlier in the year. The county's unemployment rate was at 10.2 percent in February. Through November, the county's average unemployment rate was 8.34 percent, compared with 8.39 percent through the first 11 months of 2012. In 2012, the average unemployment rate for the county was 8.4 percent, compared with 9.4 percent in 2011, 10 percent in 2010 and 9.6 percent in 2009. In 2008, the county's average unemployment rate was 5.8 percent. It was 3.8 percent in 2006, according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security.
Health systems plan to invest more than a half a trillion dollars in the region's health care facilities in the coming years.
In October, Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital started construction on a $247- million expansion and modernization project at its 34-year-old hospital in Barrington. The project includes building private rooms for patients, adding hospital beds and upgrading medical departments.
Advocate Health also has pledged to put $200 million into Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin. Advocate acquired Sherman in June after the deal was approved by state regulators in May.
Including the $233 million Centegra plans to spend building its third hospital in Huntley, the combined $680 million in hospital investments will significantly change the region's health care facilities.
Ongoing litigation as part of a $109.53 million foreclosure lawsuit against the owners of the Algonquin Commons didn't stop the Randall Road shopping center from attracting new businesses in 2013.
Local and midsize businesses have filled vacancies left by larger national chains and some high-end retailers, pushing the occupancy rate on the property located in the Randall Road Corridor to more than 95 percent, officials said in September.
U.S. Bank National Association filed a foreclosure suit in Kane County Circuit Court on Dec. 28, 2012, against Inland Real Estate Corp.’s Algonquin Commons property in an attempt to persuade the real estate company to restructure its debt. Occupancy rates had dipped below the 85 percent mark between 2007 and 2011 as big retailers such as The Sharper Image, Borders, Linens n’ Things, Circuit City and Wickes Furniture closed their doors. Vacant stores have since been filled by a mix of retailers and restaurants. This year's additions included Crazy 8, Torrid, Aladdin Mediterranean Grill, Fuddruckers, and Half Price Books, among others.
Manufacturing accounts for nearly a quarter of the county's gross regional product. Several of the county's largest manufacturers added workers or announced plans to expand their local operations in 2013. Others were shuttered, laying off scores of workers.
Global health care products maker Covidien is in the process of adding 100 new jobs at its Crystal Lake plant and already has constructed a 38,000-square-foot processing room that houses the facility’s new syringe product line.
Scot Forge is planning a major expansion at its Spring Grove headquarters that includes adding space for corporate offices and manufacturing. The company, which makes metal parts for everything from airplanes to submarines and aircraft carriers, plans to add a three-story, 29,000- square-foot office building at 8001 Winn Road. Scot Forge also will add about 87,000-square feet of manufacturing space to the south side of its property. The expansion will tack on nearly 120,000 square feet of space to the company’s existing 350,000-square-foot facility and add at least 15 jobs in the coming years.
Breast-pump maker Medela Inc. added a third shift of workers this year to increase production following a surge of orders set off by a provision in the Affordable Care Act. Under the health law, insurance companies are required to cover, without copay, the cost of breast- feeding devices and lactation counseling along with other preventative health services. So far, Obamacare has been a boon for Medela, the company has seen a “significant increase” in demand for its products. As a result, it has ramped up production to meet that demand.
Other manufacturing companies closed plants and laid off workers.
Lured by economic incentives and room for expansion, commercial foodservice products maker Food Warming Equipment Co. largely vacated its facility at 7900 Route 31 when it moved production to Portland, Tenn., this year. The privately-owned company took more than 100 jobs, $4.8 million in annual payroll and $7.5 million in vendor spending with it when it moved. About 130 people lost jobs when D.B. Hess closed its Woodstock facility this summer. The printer of commercial and educational materials was shuttered after BTPO Hess Holdings Inc., the Ohio-based parent company of the Woodstock printer, filed for bankruptcy in late May.
Thermtrol Corp. closed its Cary manufacturing plant in July and laid off 60 workers when the manufacturer of motor vehicle and electronic equipment relocated operations to Vietnam.
Businesses continue to flock to Route 14 in Crystal Lake. An assortment of new businesses have opened along the commercial corridor in recent years, thanks, in part, to the city's economic development efforts.
In the past three years, 1 million square feet of commercial space in the city has been filled. In the first seven months of this year, an additional 250,000 square feet of commercial space was occupied, officials said. However, the city is set to lose two larger retailers as both Marshalls and Dominick's are slated for closure.
Three Dominick’s stores in McHenry County closed Dec. 28 after parent company Safeway announced in October that it would sell off or shutter all 72 of its Chicago- area grocery stores by the end of the year. Dominick’s has locations in Crystal Lake, Lake in the Hills and Fox River Grove. The 192 union employees were warned Oct. 30 of the layoffs. Statewide, 5,633 employees could be affected by the company's decision to leave the market.
Fox Valley Systems was cited in September for 26 safety violations in connection with the March explosion that left three workers with serious injuries.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration released its detailed findings of the March 6 incident at the Cary paint plant, a marking and striping company that does traffic and athletic field painting. The report included six willful violations and recommended $262,000 in fines. Six of the violations were considered willful – those found to be committed with a knowing disregard or indifference to employee safety and health.
Blocked exits contributed to the injuries, the report said. OSHA placed Fox Valley Systems in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which subjects the company to further inspections if OSHA has "reasonable grounds" to believe there are similar violations. Fox Valley Systems, an employer of 23 people, hasn't reopened since the explosion.
It was a good year for film fans. Construction progressed on a project to more than double the seating capacity of the historic Woodstock Theater as part of a $6 million expansion. It included adding the latest theater equipment, including some 3D screens.
The AMC Lake in the Hills 12 movie theater got a makeover that added oversized luxury recliners and a bar. The upgrades were part of a renovation project that included improvements to the theater's lobby, concessions, auditoriums and restrooms.
And online voters helped to save the McHenry Outdoor Theater through Project Drive-In, Honda's attempt to help preserve an "iconic part of American car culture." Voters pushed the McHenry Outdoor to a spot among the contest's five winners, which each got digital projectors. Because of the movie industry's ongoing switch from 35 mm film to digital – a format cheaper for studios and distributors – theaters across the country are having to move fast to install digital projectors. Otherwise, owners are left choosing from a dwindling selection of movies produced on the old format.