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This Industrial Park Could Address New Era's Labor Shortages

Elion Logistics Park 55

Elion Partners has begun creating what could not only become the largest rail-served industrial mixed-use logistics park in the Midwest, but one that helps tenants recruit and retain workers, a growing need in the world of logistics. 

Located 40 miles southwest of Chicago in suburban Wilmington, the park, formerly known as RidgePort Logistics Center, had 1,000 acres and just over 2M SF of industrial distribution space when the firm bought it in 2016. Elion expanded its land holdings, and the current master plan could encompass up to 2,500 acres, giving the park, now dubbed Elion Logistics Park 55, the potential to eventually host about 30M SF.

But company officials believe the market needs something more than just another industrial park. As discussed at Bisnow’s all-day Chicago Industrial Midwest conference last week, labor shortages have focused attention on the need to provide amenities that will keep workers on the job.

"If you train someone, and lose them six months later, it hits the bottom line," Elion Partners co-founder and managing partner Shlomo Khoudari said.

The company plans to include a variety of restaurants, walking paths, wetlands and other amenities to ensure the warehouse workforce has access to healthy food and exercise.

"The new generation is looking for options; they don't want to have the same thing for lunch every day in the same place."

Likewise, the trucking industry recently changed in several fundamental ways, and logistics parks need to change in response, he said. 

Freight companies have complained for several years about a shortage of truck drivers, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, after a slight rebound in 2018, the number of drivers began declining again this year.  

Furthermore, new regulations limit the amount of hours drivers can spend on the road, increasing the need for areas which provide respite. 

"Our tenants have to address that," Khoudari said.

Instead of dropping off their trailers at the end of making deliveries, and heading up Interstate 55 to a hotel, truckers at ELP 55 will have access to showers, laundry, vehicle service, business services, restaurants and entertainment. The site already has a TA Petro Travel Plaza, as well as 140 acres set aside for additional commercial development. 

"We are also sensitive to the environmental side of things," Khoudari said, and the park has 40 acres of natural ponds to improve water quality and preserve the habitats of local wildlife.

There is 6.3M SF of multi-tenant and build-to-suit space on the ground, much of it occupied by companies such as Michelin, Post, Lineage and Batory Foods, and Elion plans to continue what could be a $2B redevelopment project. An 810K SF speculative facility is vacant but ready for occupancy.

Elion Partners has retained CBRE as the exclusive listing agent for the property, with CBRE Senior Vice Presidents Jeff Kapcheck and Jason Lev leading leasing.

Projects underway include an on-site first responders' station, which Elion plans to complete by the fourth quarter, and an on-site helipad. ELP 55 features 2 miles of frontage along the BNSF’s Transcontinental Mainline with up to 12M SF of potential rail service, and 3 miles of I-55 frontage with a complete interchange.

Khoudari hopes this project can act as a model for the rest of the industry as it begins to provide the workforce with a better quality of life.

"Finally, people are starting to address their needs."