GRANITE CITY, IL (KTVI)--
A gritty, blue collar Illinois town that has always relied on heavy industry is enjoying a renaissance of sorts. Granite City hugs the east side of the Mississippi River south of Alton and Hartford. It began as a company town built around factories that produced enameled cookware known as “graniteware”.
In the past six years, city officials say there has been just over $1 billion worth of industrial and public investment in the city limits. Layoffs in the steel industry had sent the town reeling in 2008, but U.S. Steel did not leave town. Instead the national steel company re-invested in Granite City, building a cogeneration plant to harness heat and steam produced in the steel making process and to turn it into energy. CokeSun Energy joined with a cooperative venture building a new more efficient plant to produce the coke needed to make steel.
Some thirty companies from Prairie Farms, a dairy, to Bailey which produces products like noodles and spring rolls for Chinese restaurants have expanded their manufacturing operations in the river town.
“I think a lot of it has to do with this is a really good place to do business despite what some people might think by perception," said the city's economic development director Jon Ferry.
Ferry added he and other city officials have made it a point to meet regularly with existing businesses to find out what they are thinking about and what their needs are.
"We have a really great infrastructure; we have really good work force," Ferry pointed out.
The city surrounds the America's Central Port District on the Mississippi River. Major railroads run through town and Interstate 270 cuts through the northern tip of town.
A gas bottling distributor opened its tenth location in the region in Granite City in 2012.
"When we were looking for a site, Granite City officials stepped up, really made it easy for us," said ILMO Division President Tony McLaughlin. He was able to find a dozen employees to fit his firm's needs.
McLaughlin said, "There's skilled people who have a great work ethic in the area."
Kraft Foods recently announced plans to add more production capability to its packaged juice operation in Granite City. That will add 40 million dollars of investment to the existing plant and eventually 30 jobs.
Over 900 million dollars of the one billion in industrial investment has come from corporations rather than taxpayers. The city expects the investments will produce 600 new jobs and have helped to retain 4600 existing jobs.
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