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Atmospheric gas company to build $35M facility in Minooka

MINOOKA – Airgas – one of the nation’s largest producers of atmospheric gases – is going to build a new $35 million air separation facility at Prologis International Centre South in Minooka.

Construction of the new air separation unit, or ASU, will begin in February. The facility should be operational by summer 2015 and is expected to create 50 full-time jobs with an average annual salary of $70,000.

“It’s a great company and we’re excited about the investment it will bring to the Grundy County area,” said Missy Durkin, business development director of the Grundy Economic Development Council.

Durkin said negotiations with Airgas began in September 2012. Minooka was one of several sites in the Midwest, including other sites within Grundy County, competing for the multimillion dollar project.

“They had multiple options to consider,” Durkin said. “Ultimately everything came together for this to be the best choice.”

Airgas worked closely with GEDC, the village of Minooka, Grundy County and Commonwealth Edison when determining the best location for the new ASU.

“It’s been a long time since our area has seen a large industrial project of this magnitude,” Minooka Village Administrator Dan Duffy said.

Sarah Stockton-Brown, communication manager for Airgas, said Minooka’s location was one of the major draws for Airgas.

“It has a central location for our Midwest market opportunities,” Stockton-Brown said.

The county’s access to the Chicago-area market via Interstates 80 and 55, the area’s concentration of major industrial producers and the availability of a skilled workforce also put Grundy County ahead of its competitors.

“We have a good core base of local employees, or talent pools, to draw from, which is really important,” Durkin said.

Airgas is one of the nation’s largest suppliers of industrial, specialty and medical gases in the country with 16 air separation units nationwide.

Airgas President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Molinini said he expects the demand for atmospheric gases in the Midwest to be strong in the coming years making the Minooka ASU an important facility.

“Increasing our production capabilities in the Chicago area will enhance our gas supply chain and ensure long-term reliability of supply for merchant gas customers in the region,” Molinini said in a news release.

The Minooka plant will be managed by the Airgas Merchant Gases business unit, which currently manages Airgas’ network of ASUs, procurement and supplier relationships, and logistics and distribution of gases.

The Minooka ASU will produce more than 450 tons of oxygen, nitrogen and argon per day.

According to Durkin, Airgas will not use an existing Prologis facility for the ASU but will need to construct a new building.

“This is more than just a four-walls operation,” Durkin said. “It’s a manufacturing facility so there are more components associated with their type of facility.”

Airgas will hire local contractors to build the ASU, making this a major construction project for the local trades, Durkin said.

The project falls within the county’s first Economic Development Project Area so the county was able to offer an extended 10-year tax abatement incentive to Airgas.

The EDPA was designed to ease the impact of the county’s machinery and equipment tax, which taxes machinery and equipment as real property. The state’s other 101 counties classify machinery and equipment as personal property, which is not taxed in Illinois, making abatement incentives an important tool for Grundy County when competing for new businesses.

Minooka has had several project announcements in the last year indicating a demand for the community’s industrial space.

“The [village] board really made an aggressive effort to put together incentive packages,” Duffy said. “It’s been the board being active that’s really landed these big projects.”

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