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ROSEMONT, IL-It wasn’t too long ago, recalls Venture One Real Estate, LLC principal Mark B. Goode, that Interstate 39 was an interesting line on a map. At least it was to him about two years ago.

Since then, a group of other developers and local officials have formed the I-39 Logistics Corridor Association in an attempt to raise the visibility of the stretch between Bloomington, IL and Madison, WI, which is poised to play a bigger role in Chicago’s ever-widening industrial market. That included the group’s second I-39 Expo here this week.

Warehouse space is available in the corridor at net lease rates ranging from $1.75 per sf to $3 per sf, while office space can be had for $3 per sf to $6 per sf, reports Mike Slavish, director of real estate for Beloit, WI-based Hendricks Development Group. There also is no shortage of redevelopment opportunities in Beloit, Janesville, WI and Rockford, IL, he adds. His company has been involved in such projects as the 750,000-sf Beloit Ironworks and 220,000-sf former Parker Pen facility in Janesville.

However, much of the development in the long stretch along the interstate will likely be centered around the Union Pacific Railroad’s 1,250-acre intermodal facility in Rochelle, IL, says consultant Neil H. Palmer. Projections of 2,000 new jobs being added there in the next 10 years are likely to be eclipsed, he suggests.

Palmer’s bullishness is based on a report by Texas-based Insight Research Corp., which studied the projections against reality seen around a rail yard in Mesquite, TX that was converted into an intermodal operation. Palmer says investment around the intermodal facility has hit $280 million and is climbing, far beyond the initial $169-million estimate.

Already, Rayovac, Erie Manufacturing and Con-Agra have looked into the Rochelle area, and developers such as the Alter Group and CenterPoint Properties Trust have been there to greet them.

Rochelle is about a 30-minute drive from Rockford’s Northwest Chicagoland Regional Airport, already the 27th busiest cargo handler among US airports with room to grow.

Rockford Mayor Doug Scott suggests municipalities are taking a regional view and cooperating, rather than resorting to provincialism. Northern Illinois University business college dean Dr. David Graf also points to a number of technical schools, community and private colleges in addition to his school, Illinois State University and University of Wisconsin supplying an educated labor force.

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