Enterprise Zone to Help Keep the Lights On

On August 14, 2003 at 4:11 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Ontario, Canada and much of the Northeastern United States were hit by the largest blackout in North American history. Fifty million people lost their electricity, and darkness covered an area from New York to Toronto to Ohio. Lights went out, subways ground to a halt, refrigeration shut down and business stopped cold in its tracks. Days passed slowly before some electricity consumers had power restored. Could that happen here? What would you or your businesses do if this happened? These are really important questions.


The Lee County Enterprise Zone (LCEZ) in northwest Illinois is helping to make sure that an outage like 2003’s will never happen to us in the Midwest. Duke Energy will be adding “dark start” capability to their Lee County facility using Caterpillar diesel generators. In 2001 Duke Energy completed an 8-unit peak generating power plant in Nachusa, Illinois near Dixon in the LCEZ. At the time, Duke saw the Illinois Enterprise Zone Program as a very important incentive tool to enable them to make the $218 million investment in the facility. Today, as part of a new contract to provide “dark start” capability to ComEd, Duke is again investing in the LCEZ.


On or before January 1, 2005 Duke will have installed at its Lee County Generating Station three new 1.4-megawatt diesel generators capable of starting one of the Duke peaker units if the grid should experience a blackout. Like most power plants today, these facilities make electricity but also need electricity from an outside source to enable them to start up. It is a kind of Catch-22, and with this new “dark start” capability the Duke peakers will be stand-alone and can start each other.

The sequence would go something like this:

  • Upon experiencing a blackout situation, Duke would be critical to ComEd’s Restoration Plan and would fire up the CAT diesels, generating enough power to start one of the 80-megawatt peaker units.
  • That unit can then provide power to start the other seven units on site, bringing 640-megawatts of total power back on line.
  • This will begin to restore grid stability and provide power for early restoration, as load would demand.
  • Lee County Station power would feed the grid to handle critical loads, help restart other generating assets and balance the overall load and stability on the Midwest grid itself.

Duke will invest $2.6 million in the stand-alone Caterpillar Diesel Generator Dark Start Project. The weather-protected units will be installed on concrete pads adjacent to Unit # 1. Duke is pleased to use Caterpillar units for this project. CAT itself is a big user of Illinois’ Enterprise Zone programs so it is good to see their product as part of the Lee County project. Equipment is scheduled for delivery on site by October 15 with complete installation and operational capability by January 1, 2005.

Thanks to Jim Cumbow, Superintendent of O&M and Kate Perez of Public Affairs for Duke Energy, the United States Air Force and CBC News for source material contributing to this article and for photos. For more information contact John Thompson, Lee County Enterprise Zone Administrator at 815-284-3361 or dchamber@essex1.com.


Rayovac to open 570,000 SF Packaging and DC in Dixon, IL


The Lee County Enterprise Zone in Dixon recently announced a high-profile project that had been kept under wraps as the highly secretive “Project Kodiak” for many months. It was revealed by Zone Administrator and President of Lee County Industrial Development Association (LCIDA) John Thompson that the facility was in fact going to be a new 576,000 square foot (expandable to 800,000 SF) packaging and distribution center for the Rayovac Corporation of Madison, Wisconsin.

Thompson made the announcement along with Dixon Mayor James Burke timed just after Rayovac made the project known to its own employees and stockholders. Rayovac had been working for well over a year to develop the Dixon project as part of its new global strategies that included purchase of the German battery company Varta. With the Varta acquisition, Rayovac is one of the world’s leading battery and lighting device companies with revenues over $1 billion. Rayovac products are sold in over 115 countries.

The new $20 million distribution and packaging center complex is located in the Lee County Business Park owned by LCIDA and contained in the Lee County Enterprise Zone. Construction began last June and Rayovac anticipates full operation later into 2003. The facility consolidates distribution and packaging operations currently being handled at several Rayovac facilities and outside suppliers. A total of 300 employees are expected to work in the complex when the ramp-up is complete.

Higgins Development Partnership of Chicago is the real estate developer for the building complex and Mc Shane Construction, one of the Mc Shane Companies, is the contractor for the building that covers 18 acres, including truck aprons, of the 55-acre site.

Dixon was chosen after an in-depth study encompassing an evaluation of alternate solutions to eliminate current inefficient multi-location operations and to best serve the Company’s ever growing customer base. The site search stretched throughout the mid-central and mid-east portions of the United States. The Facility and Location Strategy Implementation Department of Chicago-based Deloitte & Touche acted as consultants for Rayovac.

“This new centralized packaging and distribution center is expected to result in significant annual savings in freight, inventory and operating costs,” said Dave Jones, Rayovac Chairman and CEO.

Locating the new complex in Dixon near the new $200 million-plus Union Pacific Railroad intermodal (also in the Lee County Enterprise Zone) being built in nearby Rochelle, will allow Rayovac to better serve its entire U.S. customer base while significantly reducing freight costs. The centralization will also reduce inventory levels necessary in Rayovac’s current multi-location architecture.

“Successful companies understand the importance of having easy access to their markets. Illinois has long been known as the nation’s transportation hub, and the siting of this project in Dixon further bolsters that claim,” said Illinois Governor George H. Ryan. “Initiatives like Illinois FIRST have infused a significant amount of resources into upgrading the state’s infrastructure in order for us to maintain this leadership role in the way goods are distributed across the country.”

The Dixon facility will serve as Rayovac’s main packaging facility for its products and will be the company’s largest distribution center in North America. Rayovac also operates distribution centers in Fresno, CA, La Vergne, TN, and Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.

Rayovac is eligible to receive benefits through the Illinois Enterprise Zone Program due to its location in the Lee County Zone at Dixon. Rayovac is also eligible to receive EDGE tax credits administered through DCCA.

The Rayovac announcement was very well received in Dixon, Lee County, throughout the region and across Illinois. “We are thrilled to have a household name such as Rayovac here,” said Dixon Mayor Jim G. Burke. “The facility will provide quality jobs to hundreds of our citizens and it doesn’t get any better than that.”

“LCIDA worked had for over a year to site this project. We got strong support from the State of Illinois,” said John Thompson. “DCCA’s Pam McDonough, Dennis Pescitelli, Craig Coil, Tom Henderson, Mark Gauss, Dave Goben and Dennis Gorss were especially helpful along with the City of Dixon and its Mayor Burke, Finance Commissioner Bridgeman, the City Council and department heads,” Thompson concluded.

The Rayovac facility is clearly visible in Rayovac’s new blue, black and gray corporate colors at the Dixon interchange of I-88 and Illinois Route 26. Rayovac plans a major opening celebration and open house at the end of March.