Plant project boosts economy

A major employer in Rantoul has big plans.

Tuesday was a big day in Rantoul, where ground was broken for the construction of a 815,000-square-foot distribution, assembly and shared services center for Easton-Bell Sports.

The new facility will be located off Evans Road along U.S. 136 in Rantoul's industrial park, replacing two buildings in Rantoul that the company currently uses.

It's hard to overstate the importance of this venture, not just for the jobs the company will continue to provide for its roughly 300 employees but for the new jobs that should follow when the company actually moves into a building intended to accommodate an expanded work force.

Company officials estimate the building's outer shell will be completed in November, with the overall project's final completion date in late 2013. All told, construction of the LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) facility will require roughly 18 miles of electrical cable, 42,000 cubic yards of concrete weighing approximately 85,000 tons and 3,000 tons of steel.

Obviously, there remains considerable work to do, but comparatively little in contrast to the lengthy process involved in the company's decision to build anew in Rantoul and the efforts by village and state officials to assist with the company's plans.

Easton-Bell Sports designs, develops and markets sports equipment, licensing it under a variety of brands including Easton, Bell, Riddell, Giro and Blackburn.

Headquartered in Van Nuys, Calif., Easton-Bell Sports Inc. has 32 facilities worldwide. In one form or another, it's been operating in Rantoul for 30-plus years.

Company officials say that the new facility will operate with advanced technology and design capabilities intended to produce shorter lead times for customer orders and a reduction in costs.

It's rare that projects of this nature don't involve financial incentives, and this one is no different. The state is providing a $3.4 million package that includes tax credits and training grants. Rantoul is offering a break on sales taxes on building materials.

What's most important, however, is the continued employment opportunities Easton-Bell will provide. The company employs a lot of people in the Champaign County community, making it a vital component of the local economy. With Easton-Bell's construction plan coming to fruition, that should be the case for many years to come.

Sections (2):Editorials, Opinion
Categories (2):Editorials, Opinions

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