Thinking About Business

by Fred Cederholm
Last Wednesday, we hosted yet another groundbreaking celebration for a new facility’s construction here. This was not any big deal, it is a HUGE deal – for Rochelle, for Illinois, and for the USA!

I’ve been thinking about business. Actually I’ve been thinking about the economy, jobs, “hub” locations, Rochelle, groundbreaking(s), international investment, railroads, rolling stock, and history. One doesn’t need to TH*NK too hard to realize that the US economy is in trouble. Our gross domestic product is declining on the world stage. OK, if you twist and massage the numbers enough (and because this is an election year) you might be able to spin isolated incidents to “prove” the decline has leveled off and we as a nation are holding our own. Remember...”the business of America is BUSINESS!” Growth is an essential part of this. And let’s face it... nothing breeds success like success!

You see Rochelle is known as the “HUB City.” This is no hollow name in some lame marketing package being put forth in a troubled economy game plan. It is the verifiable truth! Six major highways converge here. Route 39 (north/ south) and Route 88, the East-West Illinois Toll Road are but two of them. American’s two major railroads, the Union Pacific and the Burlington Northern/ Santa Fe cross the city by Rochelle’s own railroad park. Such convergence occurs at only five locations in the entire US. Illinois is located at the heart of America, and Rochelle is at the north central heart of this heart. The world’s largest railroad intermodal facility, the Union Pacific’s Global III, is located here. We are a major distribution, and food and energy processing center. We already have MILLION square feet warehousing facilities here --- PLURAL! By the way... stay tuned, more are coming.

Rochelle is also at the vortex of the Northern Illinois telecommunications triangle combined with Chicago 70 miles to the East, and Rockford 35 miles to the North. Rochelle’s new telecommunication’s park features “redundant” electricity and fiber optic telecomunication capabilitites and connect to the world. This is already home to some of the largest names in banking and insurance in the nation. Add to that Rochelle’s Municipal Utilities which provide electricity, water, and waste water treatment. Rochelle clearly has much to offer. There is a complete turnkey package available --- a COMPLETE package.

Last Wednesday, Rochelle hosted yet another groundbreaking celebration for a new facility’s construction here. This was not any big deal, it is a HUGE deal – for Rochelle, for Illinois, and for the USA! There was real cause for celebration. Political figures, local notables, public servants, the media, and TRANSLATORS came together at a site one mile from Rochelle on Illinois Route 38. I emphasize “translators” because the newest member of Rochelle’s corporate family is NIPPON SHARYO which is headquartered in Japan. Nippon Sharyo began their search for a railcar manufacturing facility in the US well over two and a half years ago. They are meticulous in everything they undertake. When 75 possible sites became 60 some two years ago, Team Rochelle and Jason Anderson, Rochelle’s economic development officer, sprung into action. Team Rochelle plays hard and brings a comprehensive and diverse group to the table, and the court. Team Rochelle plays to win!

Nippon Sharyo sets the global bar for high standards of railcar rolling stock manufacturing. They are “sigma-seven perfection” in their corporate culture and orientation focus. Nothing but the best is acceptable to them. “Sigma seven” are the hardest of standards to meet, yet only these are acceptable. They chose Rochelle! They recently signed a contract to build 160 METRA commuter passenger cars for metropolitan Chicago. These will be built here in the HUB City. Phase one of the Rochelle plant will be 450,000 square feet and will employ 250 to 300 skilled workers. The Rochelle site will mark a $40 MILLION investment by Nippon Sharyo in our community. This is on top of the $12 MILLION in infrastructure improvements underwritten by the federal, state, and local governments/ agencies. It is a most impressive package. We have not seen the likes of any such groundbreaking for facilities in the entire US for well over a year.

It is anticipated that in addition to the stainless steel commuter cars, passenger rolling stock for “bullet trains” will eventually be made here. Japan leads the world in their ultra high speed trains. That rolling stock is manufactured by Nippon Sharyo. (You don’t want to know where the US currently ranks in bullet trains. Ok, we are near dead LAST in the entire industrial world. ARG!!!) The potential for growth because of this fact is (in a word) staggering! Rochelle will be a central part of all this.

The HUB City began as a railroad town way back in the 19th century. One of the earliest manufacturing companies here was the Whitcomb. An example of one of the gasoline powered industrial railroad engines built by them is available to view in Rochelle’s Railroad Park. The Whitcomb came to Rochelle in 1907 and became the largest “industrial” railroad engine (used in mining operations) in the US. At one time, it was the largest employer in Rochelle. It ceased production here in 1952. Fifty-nine years later, railroad rolling stock production returns to Rochelle. We are already now home to Union Pacific’s Global III. The history of Rochelle’s part in America’s railroads continues. Welcome to Rochelle, NIPPON SHARYO! Welcome...

I’m Fred Cederholm and I’ve been thinking. You should be thinking, too.

Copyright 2010 Questions, Inc. All rights reserved. Fred Cederholm is a CPA/CFE, a forensic accountant, and writer. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois (B.A., M.A. and M.A.S.). He can be reached at

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This story was published on October 25, 2010.