Whether you’re looking for a career change, a place to get your start or a family-friendly home, making the big move will leave you with a lot to consider. Do you want a big city? A small town? Are you more focused on the culture of a place or the job opportunities there? Pro and con lists have their pros and cons, but why compromise? Kankakee County has it all. Abundant employment opportunities at every level, the charm of a small town with easy access to one of America’s best big cities and a rich culture that will leave you, and your family, with plenty to do in your downtime.
In July 2018, Area Development magazine ranked Kankakee County as the #1 metropolitan area for year-to-year growth. The ranking is just the latest in a string of accolades; Kankakee County has been rated the No. 1 Small Metro in Illinois for Job & Tech Growth by Milken Institute for four of the last five years, in 2017 it made Forbes’ list of Best Places for Business and Careers and from 2014 to 2018 the county has experienced more than $1.7 billion in major capital investment. The fact that Kankakee County has now ranked first out of 394 metropolitan statistical areas shows that it’s place for professional, as well as personal, development.
Kankakee County’s potential is palpable and companies are feeling it. In addition to longstanding brands like Johnsonville Sausage and Plochman’s Mustard, Kankakee County is home to new and expanding businesses, some of which are the cornerstone of burgeoning industries. CSL Behring is kicking off a 12-year plan to add 1.8 million square feet to its already expansive plant. Other companies are expanding, too, including Van Drunen Farms, FutureCeuticals and Nucor Steel. Growing companies mean increased employment opportunities at every level for Kankakee County residents.
Tim Nugent, President/CEO of the Economic Alliance of Kankakee County, summed up the vibe of Kankakee County in one word: momentum. A tide of new growth is sweeping into Kankakee County and it’s the perfect time for businesses and career-minded employees to catch the wave.
A thriving economy isn’t the only reason to relocate to Kankakee County. The incredible amenities, as well as the proximity to the big city, ensure that residents experience the best of urban and rural life. Kankakee County is a quick drive or train ride from Chicago, so living here means you can spend a day at the Field Museum and still get home in time for dinner.
Riverside Healthcare and AMITA Health St. Mary’s Hospital provide top-of-the-line care with a gentle small-town touch. City services, including reliable mass transit and a community bike-share program, couldn’t be more convenient. The Illinois Department of Education gives local schools high marks—as do parents.
If you’re looking to move, Kankakee County is a great choice for a multitude of reasons—career opportunities, continued growth, proximity to Chicago, excellent amenities that ensure a high quality of life—but the wonderful sense of community is what truly makes it special, a fact that wasn’t lost on Mike Boyd when he moved there with his family nearly five years ago.
Married with four kids, the move to Kankakee County was a no-brainer for Boyd, who is the incoming President of Kankakee Community College. Uprooting a family of six is no simple task, but Kankakee County made it easy. Boyd and his family were immediately impressed by their new home.
“The people are very real, very honest and warm here,” Boyd says. “It feels like I went to grade school with the people I know now.”
In addition to providing a welcoming, inspiring community of hard-working people, Boyd found that Kankakee County offered educational and recreational opportunities for his entire family. While his children attend schools in Manteno, he speaks highly of other larger community high schools, too. You’ll find exceptional fine arts, athletics and robotics programs.
“But if you’re interested in a smaller school experience, that’s here as well,” says Boyd. “You can plug yourself into any sort of school setting that fits your family and reflects your values.”
School aside, Kankakee County’s festivals, events and attractions provide year-round entertainment for the whole family. Adults can indulge in BrickStone Brewery’s locally brewed beers, and there’s nothing quite like a cookout, complete with Johnsonville brats smothered in Plochman’s mustard, along the banks of the Kankakee River. The river itself (and the Kankakee River State Park) is worth a mention. In addition to providing a beautiful setting for boating, fishing, biking and hiking, it provides award-winning drinking water to residents.
If you want something that can’t be found in Kankakee County, there’s a good chance you’ll find it in nearby Chicago. Boyd is a Cubs fan, much to the chagrin of his White Sox fan neighbors, and it used to take serious planning for him to go to a game at Wrigley Field. He’d have to find a hotel, book travel and he’d be lucky if he made it to one game a year. Now he can go to a night game without so much as taking a day off work.
“I can enjoy the big city lifestyle without feeling like I have to live in a big city,” Boyd says. “I can live in a smaller town and get to the city whenever I want.”
It’s rare to find a place that doesn’t feel like a compromise, but the myth of having it all isn’t such a myth in Kankakee County. As Boyd’s experience shows, it is possible to have your small town charm and big city fun, too.
When Boyd was thinking about finding a place for his family to call home, he thought about “the entire lifespan and trajectory of a family from birth through education to retirement and beyond.”
With phenomenal hospitals, abundant educational opportunities, a booming economy and boundless recreational opportunities, Kankakee County provides the perfect home every step of the way.