Navistar Still Meeting Resistance

CEO Meets With Business Community

The attention of area business leaders was focused on one spot this week, with Navistar officials presenting their case for moving down the street to Lisle. Navistar CEO Dan Ustian met with more than 300 business members at a special briefing at the Lisle Hilton sponsored by the Naperville and Lisle Chambers of Commerce. Ustian’s hour-long presentation focused on many things such as Navistar’s strides to be as environmentally friendly as possible and its programs in Chicago-area high schools.

The prime subject was the creation of jobs. Navistar has promised to bring around 1500 jobs to Lisle.

The other topic of discussion was Navistar’s plan for the campus includes using existing buildings, but the big issue is the building of the Lisle Technology Center on the campus and the diesel engine testing that comes with it. Navistar has scaled back the 24 hour testing of engines in 62 test bays from the previous plan. The current plan calls for eight hours of testing in six bays. Those reductions won over previous opponents, like Naperville City Councilman Richard Ferstenau

“This is a great thing,” said Ferstenau, “and hopefully we can attract more people like Navistar. And whether it’s in Lisle or it’s in Naperville it’s good for our area and our communities and our local businesses.”

Even though Thursday’s breakfast was a step forward for Navistar, not everyone is welcoming them with open arms, especially neighbors of the site.

One concerned party is a neighboring school for autistic children – Giant Steps Illinois. The school is now 1600 feet from the engine testing bays. School officials declined to speak on camera, but Giant Steps sources say they aren’t convinced that even the reduced engine testing is safe for their students.

Richard Wilkie has lived in Lisle for 18 years, and his home is just down the street from the Lucent campus. What started out as an environmental concern for him has become a financial issue.

Navistar is requesting a TIF district to help finance renovations, giving the company a tax break for building. As a part of the agreement, Navistar promises around $100 million in revenue for the tax district.

Wilkie and other residents are worried the tax dollars in the deal don’t add up.

“We shouldn’t judge Navistar on the basis of jobs or how much their going to spend in this community,” said Wilkie. “We should judge it on the net of this is what you bring to the community . . . and from what I’ve seen right now the people that are calling themselves the good neighbor are taking out a whole lot more than they’re willing to put in.”

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