Navistar International Corp., the giant transport manufacturer, wanted to moved its world headquarters from Warrenville to Lisle, into a 1.2 million square foot building next to Interstate 88 that has been vacant for years. The company also wanted to consolidate its product development activities at a new research and development facility it would build on the property. Navistar would test its next generation diesel engines and showcase that technology there for customers from around the world looking to buy the company's trucks, buses and engines.
The bottom line for Illinois: A Fortune 250 company would invest $100 million and employ at least 3,100 people on the site. Navistar projected that the development would support 7,000 direct and indirect jobs.
But opposition from a handful of nearby homeowners has killed the project. The company is looking elsewhere.
It looks like the development and the jobs will go to Alabama, Texas, South Carolina or Indiana. The Fort Wayne-Allen County Economic Development Alliance is aggressively lobbying Navistar to add to its existing operations in Indiana, touting a business climate that welcomes job creation.
Navistar tried hard to answer the local concerns in Lisle. It moved a proposed diesel engine R&D center so it would be as far as possible from a nearby school for autistic children. The company cut the center's size by a third and reduced by tenfold the fuel storage capacity and the number of diesel test cells.
The school dropped its opposition to the project. But other neighbors weren't appeased. The company has had to fight in court and in local zoning hearings. Company executives were hit with more than two dozen subpoenas.
So Navistar finally pulled the plug. In a May 25 letter to Lisle Mayor Joe Broda, Navistar Chairman Daniel Ustian lamented that a "small group" of opponents was "jeopardizing our image and that of many innocent people who have advocated for us."
And there goes an international manufacturer that traces its Illinois roots to the 19th century. There go 3,100 jobs. Make that 3,100 plus. Navistar planned to grow on this site, which could accommodate up to 4,100 jobs.
Aides to Gov. Pat Quinn say they're trying to broker a deal to save the Navistar project. Failing that, they hope the company will consider other Illinois locations. Quinn signed a bill on Friday that extends a valuable tax credit to Navistar and other firms.
There was little sense of urgency from Illinois officials, though, as this project hit delay after delay.
That might be changing. The governor is looking for a solution. An aide to Attorney General Lisa Madigan called us Friday to say she's on the case, too.
We hope they pull out all the stops. It will be a bad day for Illinois if not-in-my-backyard syndrome sends thousands of jobs somewhere else.
This is home for Navistar. Let's keep it that way.