Rantoul bested Texas for new distribution site

Rantoul bested Texas for new distribution site

CHAMPAIGN — Rantoul's chief competition for the new Easton-Bell distribution center came from the state of Texas, the outgoing CEO of the Champaign County Economic Development Corp. said.

John Dimit told the economic development group's board of directors Wednesday that in vying with Texas, the state of Illinois and Rantoul  "met and exceeded the competition."

Texas Gov. "Rick Perry has nothing on us," Rantoul Village Administrator Bruce Sandahl said. He said he recently got word that state incentives have been approved for the project.

The 800,000-square-foot distribution center, to be built west of Interstate 57, will allow the company to consolidate its assembly and distribution facilities in Rantoul under one roof.

It's designed so a 400,000-square-foot addition could be built to the west, potentially bringing total square footage to 1.2 million.

Dimit said Easton-Bell's facilities in Rantoul ship 13 million products a year, including "20,000 bike helmets every day."

He said the new center will employ 300 people — the same number Easton-Bell now employs in Rantoul — with some employees being retrained in new functions.

But he said that after 12 to 24 months, there may be "some opportunities for them (Easton-Bell) to expand."

Site consultants for the project, announced June 26, sought "unbelievable minutiae" in getting data from the economic development group, Dimit said.

The requests were "more than any other client has asked," he said.

The project was cloaked in secrecy. Normally, the economic development group gives board members brief descriptions of projects it's working on, but in this case, the project description was omitted from monthly reports.

The company "didn't even want its code name (Project Gravity) listed," Dimit said.

In other business, the economic group's directors elected Jill Guth of JSM Development as the board's vice chair to serve with Laura Frerichs, who was previously elected chair for the 2012-13 fiscal year.

Frerichs, the director of the University of Illinois Research Park, will succeed current chair Gary Burgett.

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