Aurora: Economy

Major Industries and Commercial Activity

Heavy industry helped build Aurora, with the Fox River being used for power to run saw and textile mills. As the Industrial Revolution progressed and the railroad came to town, Aurora became a manufacturer of railroad cars, including some of the first dining cars built in the United States. Some heavy industry remains in Aurora today with the Caterpillar plant, which produces construction machinery; in total, the Fox Valley Industrial Association lists more than 150 manufacturers in the area.

Warehouse and distribution centers are another major part of the economy; with the surge of office and industrial park construction during the 1980s and 1990s, Aurora has become a major distribution channel for auto parts, dry goods, construction equipment, and industrial gases.

Items and goods produced: construction machinery, steel products, tools, office and retail shelving, protective coatings, electronics

Incentive Programs—New and Existing Companies

The Aurora Economic Development Commission (AEDC) was created in 1981 to attract and keep companies in Aurora and the Fox River Valley. It offers a number of services to businesses such as training and education, permit reviews, planning, financing, utilities and infrastructure. Aurora Downtown is an organization created to facilitate projects in the Special Service Tax Area in order to improve and develop the historic downtown area. Tax Increment Financing Zones are also a feature.

Local programs

The City of Aurora, through Aurora Downtown, provides grants for exterior restoration to renew original architectural features, and interior rehabilitation for HVAC, plumbing, structural and electrical work in the historic downtown area. The AEDC, with Waubonsee Community College, has a Small Business Center to help companies with business financing and preparation of business plans. AEDC helps businesses secure financing with tax exempt Industrial Revenue Bonds for qualified applicants.

State programs

The Illinois Development Finance Authority's mission is to issue taxable and tax-exempt bonds and make loans for businesses and non-profit groups in Illinois. They have bond and loan programs for industry and small businesses, as well as for agriculture, health care, education and local governments. The Illinois State Treasurer's Office has many economic programs for businesses, such as below-rate business loans under the Economic Recovery program, low cost financing for development of tourist and historic building restoration through the Experience Illinois Program, and the State Treasurer's Economic Program (STEP). STEP and STEP Small Business provide loans to bring in or expand businesses, and create and retain jobs.

Job training programs

The Aurora Economic Development Commission brings together prospective employers and job training providers through Waubonsee Community College and the College of Du Page. Grants are available for assistance with employee training through AEDC. Waubonsee has many programs in manufacturing and technical skills, computer skills, management training, and health and safety issues. The college also works with the Department of Labor's Bureau of Apprenticeship Training (BAT) to create apprenticeship programs with companies and organizations around the area. The Illinois Department of Employment Security and the Bureau of Workforce Development combine federal and state money to help with job seekers' training, job search and placement services, and development of core job skills.

Development Projects

With Aurora's population expanding, it's no wonder that business, retail and residential projects have been growing at a steady pace. In 2002, Aurora saw: a 127-room Hampton Inn & Suites and a 148-suite Staybridge Suites open in response to growing business and tourism in the Fox River Valley; Keson Industries, a manufacturer of marking and measuring devices, moved to Aurora and opened a 78,000 square foot facility at the Meridian Business Campus; Luse Companies, an insulation and asbestos and lead abatement contractor, opened a 50,000 square foot headquarters; and more than 1,000 new housing starts were recorded. In 2003 Kraft Foods opened an 850,000 square foot dry foods distribution center at the Prime Aurora Business Park, and Nissan North America expanded by 57,000 square feet at its distribution warehouse at the Meridian Business Park.

More than 3.2 million square feet of commercial and industrial space was developed, and $290 million spent in new investment in 2004. In that year, Chicago Premium Outlets opened, a shopping center with 120 outlet stores that added approximately 1,000 jobs to the community. Aurora University began a 5-year, $50 million plan of new construction and renovation on its campus. Hyundai Motor America expanded its operations in Aurora by opening a $17 million office and parts distribution center. A multiple-year project during the mid-2000s is a plan to upgrade Aurora Airport by building 120 new hangars, spending $7.2 million on refurbishing its runway, and building a new $3.2 million taxiway for the secondary runway.

Economic Development Information: Aurora Economic Development Council, 40 West Downer Place Aurora, IL 60507; phone (630)897-5500; fax (630)897-0469; email Aurora Downtown, Karen Christensen, 1 South Broadway Aurora, IL 60507; telephone (630)844-3670; fax (630)906-7430; email Illinois State Treasury Office, 100 West Randolph, Suite 15-600, Chicago, IL 60601; telephone (312)814-1700; fax (312)814-5930

Commercial Shipping

Created as a railroad town, the Burlington Northern, Santa Fe, and the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern railroads still run through town and connect to the nation's largest train gateway, Chicago. For air freight, Chicago's O'Hare and Midway airports are major cargo hubs, with national and international routes. There is one motor freight terminal in Aurora, and seven carriers provide daily service, with one specializing in heavy machinery transport. I-88 runs close by, and other easily accessible Interstates are I-55, 40, I-80, I-90, I-94, and I-355.

Labor Force and Employment Outlook

As Chicagoland expands its influence westward, the commuter rail link makes Aurora a viable destination for workers in Chicago to afford new and vintage homes and condominiums. As the population of the Fox Valley increases, Aurora's long history of development and fairly stable economy serves as an anchor for this growth, along with Naperville to the east. As Aurora's population is now one-third Hispanic and is likely to continue to increase, Aurora Downtown predicts that "Aurora is poised to be the major Hispanic retail center for the Chicagoland area."

The following is a summary of data regarding the Chicago-Naperville-Joliet Metropolitan Division labor force, 2004 annual averages.

Size of nonagricultural labor force: 3,748,500

Number of workers employed in . . .

natural resources and mining: 1,600

construction: 173,700

manufacturing: 402,300

trade, transportation and utilities: 763,400

information: 87,000

financial activities: 292,400

professional and business services: 601,100

educational and health services: 466,600

leisure and hospitality: 319,600

other services: 171,200

government: 469,600

Average hourly earnings of production workers employed in manufacturing: $15.44

Unemployment rate: 6.3% (February 2005)

Aurora: Economy

Largest city employers Number of employees
Aurora School District #204 3,000
Caterpillar Inc. 3,000
Aurora School District #129 1,300
Aurora School District #131 1,300
Fox Valley Park District 1,300
Waubonsee Community college 1,300
City of Aurora 1,280
Rush-Copley Medical Center 1,265
LTD Commodities 1,200
Provena Mercy Center 1,200
Hollywood Casino Aurora 1,000

Cost of Living

Aurora's cost of living, as well as its housing prices, are slightly below the national average.

The following is a summary of data regarding several key cost of living factors for the Aurora area.

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Average House Price: $427,451 (Chicago metro)

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Cost of Living Index: 130.4 (Chicago metro) (U.S. Average = 100.0)

State income tax rate: 3% of federal adjusted gross income with modification

State sales tax rate: 6.25%

Local income tax rate: none

Local sales tax rate: 0.75%

Property tax rate: $7.94 per $100 assessed valuation (2002)

Economic Information: Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, 620 East Adams, Springfield, IL 62701; toll-free (800)252-2923