Marathon Speedway station a welcome addition to Oakwood I-74 exit

Marathon Speedway station a welcome addition to Oakwood I-74 exit

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OAKWOOD — On the heels of celebrating a $15 million investment in the newly-opened Love's Travel Stop along Interstate 74 in Oakwood, local officials are eagerly anticipating yet another development this year in that area.

"It's very exciting," said Bob Parr, an Oakwood Village Board member, who met Thursday with representatives of the project: a Marathon Speedway store and gas station. Parr said that while semitrailer trucks and passenger cars can fuel up there, it won't be an actual truck stop.

In other words, big rigs won't be able to park there for more than two hours at a time.

"I've been working on this project for two years," said Parr, relaying that Oakwood was contacted by Marathon officials about the site that Love's acquired, but the company found this new site, a 6-acre parcel on the south side of Oakwood's I-74 interchange, directly across from the McDonald's restaurant. Parr said construction is expected to begin late this spring.

Total investment in this latest Oakwood-area project is expected to be $7.2 million, and it will employ 30 to 35 full- and part-time workers, according to Vicki Haugen, CEO and president of Vermilion Advantage, a nonprofit organization that works to facilitate economic development in Vermilion County.

Haugen, whose office recently released a year-in-review report of economic development activity in 2018, including the two Oakwood projects, said last year was a good year for development throughout the county.

"It really was, and 2019 is shaping up to be even stronger," said Haugen, whose report summarizes a dozen projects last year in which Vermilion Advantage assisted with new business developments or expansions.

The biggest was the announcement of a $20 million building expansion at Flex-N-Gate Plastics on Lynch Road east of Danville that will result 134 more full-time jobs once complete.

And Vermilion Advantage said it has four active prospective projects in the works — three manufacturing and one professional office development — though Haugen said she is unable to disclose too many details.

One of the manufacturing projects, said Haugen, has moved forward with purchasing and closing on an existing, vacant facility in the area and will make an announcement soon.

That prospective manufacturing project and two others would all provide new job opportunities, she said.

The Danville area is one of three finalists — the only site in Illinois — for a manufacturing project that would provide 70-plus jobs, she said. A second prospective project would bring a $55 million investment and around 200 jobs starting in 2020, and the third is a food manufacturing project that would provide 30 to 40 jobs. The prospective professional office development would be more than a $65 million investment, but a total job count is not yet available, according to Haugen.

And as for existing area businesses, many expect to be hiring soon and no layoffs are anticipated, according to Vermilion Advantage, which is finishing up its quarterly survey of local employers that looks back at the last quarter of 2018 and ahead to 2019.

"We need more people who are skilled to fill some of these jobs," said Haugen, who added that Vermilion County is facing the same challenges as the rest of the nation — finding qualified, skilled people to fill available positions. "There are a lot of strong indicators moving forward. So we expect it to be a good year."

Taking the Vermilion Advantage: What's under development

Highlights of still-developing projects that Vermilion Advantage worked on in 2018:

GMX Development

Retail development north of the new Urgent Care Center currently under construction in an out-lot in front of Meijer, 3649 N. Vermilion St.

Highland Ventures Development

New 6,500-square-foot retail strip to be developed on the northwest corner of Vermilion and Fairchild streets in Danville on six contiguous parcels where a former oil-lube shop sits vacant and where city crews demolished the former Gulick's Illiana Medical Supply site.

The city of Danville purchased all six parcels to help facilitate development of that high-traffic corner in the 900 block of North Vermilion Street, just west of Danville High School. The city then signed a pre-development agreement stipulating that it would sell all six parcels to the developer for what the city paid the previous owners — $120,000 for the former Speed Lube; $23,000 for the vacant lot previously owned by CVS; and $185,000 for the former Gulick's Illiana Medical Supply.

The developer has the site under option through May and has secured its first anchor business for the site and expects a second one soon, anticipating construction to begin this spring, according to Vermilion Advantage CEO and President Vicki Haugen.

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Highlights of projects already underway or completed in 2018:

Days Hotel, downtown Danville

New owners purchased the hotel and acquired Danville Tax Increment Financing funds to complete exterior renovations.

Love's Travel Stop in Oakwood

Built and opened in fall.

Vermilion Valley Produce

Food supplier added 3,000 square feet and five employees to its Danville location on South Street. Total investment of $375,000.

Jackson Investments

Purchased the 10.6-acre former Kmart property on North Vermilion Street in Danville and renovated the building into a Planet Fitness and indoor storage facility.

Watchfire Signs

Acquired temporary manufacturing space off campus from its main facility in Danville to accommodate production of a $30 million project to rebuild an iconic Las Vegas light-show attraction, an LED canopy suspended above a pedestrian mall in an area known as the Fremont Street Experience.

Villas of Holly Brook

New $10 million 50-unit assisted living and 24-unit memory care complex on North Bowman Avenue in Danville. The complex is currently under construction and expected to open this year and employ about 65.

Flex-N-Gate Plastics

A $20 million expansion currently underway on Lynch Road east of Danville. Adding 134 jobs.

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